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Witness Describes Crash That Killed State Trooper

Disasters and AccidentsHealthAsnuntuck Community College

Douglas Caverly was standing on the side of I-91 in Enfield Thursday, between his pickup truck and trailer, when he heard a loud revving noise.

He looked over his left shoulder and saw a red Dodge pickup truck slam into the patrol car of the state trooper who had just pulled him over.

The trooper, Kenneth Hall, died from the injuries he suffered. Caverly was not injured.

"As I stand here today, I don't understand why God spared me and took him," said Caverly, 51, in a phone interview Tuesday evening.

Earlier Tuesday, the driver of the Dodge pickup, Michael Pajak of Enfield, appeared in court in Springfield on an unrelated motor vehicle charge. He pleaded guilty to driving while under suspension on July 16, 2001, paid a $675 fine and was released from Springfield District Court.

Pajak, who had dark cuts near his eyes and nose and a brace on his right leg during the court appearance, declined to comment on the 2001 case or on Thursday's crash outside the hearing.

A 32-year-old freshman at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Pajak has not been charged in the fatal crash. The investigation is expected to take four to six weeks, said Lt. J. Paul Vance, a state police spokesman.

Pajak's driver's license has been suspended 10 times for motor vehicle violations, including driving under the influence, according to records from the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Most of the suspensions were for failing to properly respond to the violations, such as failing to finish an operator retraining course and failing to appear in court, DMV spokesman William Seymour said Tuesday.

Caverly, meanwhile, said his own injuries were minor. He described them as "shaving"-style cuts to the top of his head.

He said he keeps replaying the crash in his mind.

Caverly had just driven from Route 220 to I-91 north Thursday afternoon when a state trooper who was driving alongside him pulled him over. Hall told Caverly that state law required the two 60-pound chains sitting in the middle of Caverly's flatbed-style trailer to be stored in the pickup truck so they wouldn't fall onto the road. Caverly, who co-owns a masonry company, also was towing a generator that was properly secured, he said.

He gave the trooper his license and registration, and Hall said he would be in his patrol car for a minute or two.

"He was very nice," Caverly said. "Very polite."

Caverly got out of his pickup truck, threw the chains into the back and was standing between the truck and the trailer when he heard the Dodge roaring toward them.

When he saw the red truck hit the patrol car, he instinctively dropped down, hiding his face, he said.

"The debris' flying past me on both sides," he said. "I thought my life was over. I thought I was going to die right there on the spot."

Caverly suspects that the Dodge truck was airborne at one point and then thrown to the left by the metal wheel covers on the back of Caverly's trailer.

Next thing he knew, he was looking at the undercarriage of the Dodge, which had rolled onto its side and was sliding 500 to 600 feet down the highway, he said. The red pickup left rubber tire marks on the side of Caverly's truck.

Caverly called 911 and went over to the trooper, but feared he would do more harm than good if he tried to help. Medics were there very quickly, he said.

"Until you're in this situation, you don't appreciate the training these people have," Caverly said. "They were phenomenal."

As for Hall, he said, "My heart goes out to the trooper."

Courant staff writer David Owens contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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