A New York state trooper suffered an “extreme, traumatic head injury” Monday afternoon when a vehicle struck him as he helped a motorist broken down along a sharp turn in an overpass ramp to the Sagtikos State Parkway in the Commack area, police said.
Trooper Joseph J. Gallagher, 35, remained in serious condition Monday night at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore after undergoing surgery, police said.
“All we ask from the state police family, is to pray for the trooper and his family,” said Maj. David Candelaria, the commander of Troop L in Farmingdale, speaking at a hospital news conference early Monday night.
The vehicle hit Gallagher at 2:32 p.m. after he responded to a dispatch call for a disabled vehicle in the left lane of the two-lane entrance ramp from the westbound Long Island Expressway to the southbound Sagtikos State Parkway, Candelaria said. The ramp has a “sharp, hairpin turn” that is “very, very dangerous,” he said.
Gallagher parked behind two disabled vehicles with his lights flashing, Candelaria said. He began setting up flares, Candelaria said, when two oncoming vehicles veered to the right to avoid Gallagher. The driver of a third vehicle “did not see the trooper” and struck him, Candelaria said.
“Preliminarily, it doesn’t look like it’s criminal,” Candelaria said, adding that in that area, the driver would have had “very limited” sight distance.
Gallagher’s family couldn’t be reached for comment. A woman who answered the door at the trooper’s East Northport home said family members were with him at the hospital. She declined to give her name.
The driver of the vehicle that hit Gallagher did not appear intoxicated and was “100 percent cooperating,” Candelaria said. No charges have been filed, he said, adding that the state police’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, including its Collision Reconstruction Unit, is probing the crash.
State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II, who flew down from Albany in a state police helicopter to get to the hospital quickly, credited Suffolk County police officer medics from the department’s Medical Crisis Action Team with saving Gallagher’s life.
“We were extremely fortunate that there were two paramedics from the Suffolk County Police Department — MCAT paramedics — who rolled up on the scene, literally within a minute, and were able to render immediate aid,” Beach said, “and we believe saved our trooper’s life in order to get him here so that he could be in surgery.”
Gallagher began working for the state police in 2014, and since January has worked out of Long Island. Previously, he was assigned to Troop F in upstate Middletown and Troop T, which patrols the New York State Thruway.
Several law enforcement officers have been either injured or killed in similar situations on Long Island roadways in recent years.
Suffolk Police Officer John McAleavey was hurt when he was struck on Jan. 25, 2013 by a motorist who suddenly drove off during a police traffic stop in Melville on the Long Island Expressway. The officer’s belt was snagged by the vehicle’s side view mirror. He was dragged some 200 yards but eventually freed himself and suffered nonlife threatening injuries.
Nassau Police Officer Joseph Olivieri Jr. was killed on Oct. 18, 2012 after he was struck by a vehicle driving past an accident scene on the Long Island Expressway near Exit 35 in North Hills.
Nassau County Police Officer Michael Califano was hit by a truck on Feb. 5, 2011 as he sat in his vehicle during a traffic stop on the Long Island Expressway. At the time, he was one of 25 Nassau officers to be struck on the LIE between exits 35 and 41 over the previous decade.
On Oct. 19, 2001, New York State Police Trooper Suzanne Guacci, 33, lost a leg when an oncoming driver struck her as she investigated a late-night hit-and-run crash on the Southern State Parkway near Exit 20 in Baldwin.
With Kristopher J. Brooks, Zachary R. Dowdy and Lisa Irizarry