Driver, 27, hurt; racing suspected
FRAMINGHAM – A car possibly racing another vehicle on Route 30 in Framingham smashed into a cruiser carrying a veteran state trooper early yesterday, critically injuring the car’s driver but leaving the trooper nearly unscathed, State Police said.
The trooper was at least the 11th involved in a serious crash in the past 15 months in which suspected erratic driving, speeding, or impaired driving by civilians has been the cause, according to State Police officials.
In the latest accident, Trooper Edward Treseler, a 54-year-old father of two, had just assisted another trooper on a traffic stop when he pulled onto Route 30 at 1:10 a.m. and his cruiser was struck head-on by a car that had crossed the median.
“I feel very lucky and blessed that I’m not making notifications,’’ Marian J. McGovern, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police, said in a press conference at State Police headquarters yesterday, hours after the accident.
About 20 feet behind her was Treseler’s cruiser, which had been towed from the scene. The front end, which has a push bar that also serves as reinforcement, was smashed in several feet, and the airbag had deployed.
The accident occurred in a zone with a posted 35 mile-per-hour speed limit, but a witness told police the drivers were going at least 70.
Police said Alejandro Ramos, 27, the driver of the Hyundai Tiburon that hit the cruiser, was not wearing his seat belt and was critically injured. Ramos was taken via MedFlight to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Falcaneri P. Fuentes, 31, the driver of a Honda Civic that may have been racing with Ramos’s car, was not injured, nor was his passenger.
Investigators are looking into whether Ramos and Fuentes, both of Framingham, were racing. So far, neither driver has been charged, but both men will be criminally summonsed for operating to endanger, speeding, marked lane violation, and operating without a license, police said.
“Every day you put that uniform on and get into a cruiser or stand in a breakdown lane, it puts you in danger,’’ said Rick Brown, president of the State Police Association of Massachusetts.
He attributed the spate of police-involved crashes to a decrease in the number of troopers on the road.
David Procopio, spokesman for the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, said the last class of State Police recruits graduated in the fall of 2006, and there were about 2,600 troopers that year. Currently, there are fewer than 2,100.
“We’re down almost 500 troopers, so when drivers see us every 20 or 30 miles instead of every five or 10 miles, they tend to drive faster,’’ Brown said.
He hopes the governor’s budget proposal for a class of 150 survives legislative review.
“We haven’t had a new class in almost five years,’’ Brown said. Later he added: “It’s a public safety issue, and it’s something that will also protect us more.’’
In addition to the proposed class of 150, the Legislature will again consider implementing a surcharge on car insurance policies to fund replacement of troopers lost to retirement, Procopio said. That proposal has failed in the past two years.
Three troopers have been involved in serious collisions this year, including Steven Larocco, who on Jan. 2 was seriously injured when a car rear-ended his cruiser on the Massachusetts Turnpike, causing a three-car crash.
In June, Sergeant Douglas Weddleton, 52, was killed by an alleged drunk driver while making a traffic stop on Interstate 95 in Mansfield.