Driver strikes Holyoke man, police state cruiser on I-391

CHICOPEE – State police are seeking information about a driver of a sport utility vehicle who struck a Holyoke man on Interstate 391 northbound early Saturday morning, leaving the 40-year-old victim with serious injuries.

State Trooper Jeffrey S. Gordon said the man had a flat tire and was attempting to change it in the breakdown lane.

The man, who was not identified by police, had his girlfriend and four small children in his car, and Trooper Jarred Tiberi pulled up behind him and turned his blue lights on to alert other motorists.

Gordon said the man was having difficulty changing the tire, so he asked Tiberi to call for a tow truck. When the man went over to ask Tiberi if the tow truck was on the way, he was hit by the sport utility vehicle at about 2:30 a.m., Gordon said. “You could see the impact of his knee on the cruiser,” Gordon said.

The cruiser also was hit, but the trooper was not injured, state police said.

State police said the victim was brought to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where he was in good condition Saturday afternoon. State police described the sport utility vehicle as light-colored, with heavy front-end damage, possibly a Ford Explorer.

Gordon said the driver of the sport utility vehicle pulled over briefly, for about 15 seconds, then took off.

Anyone who witnessed the crash or has seen a vehicle matching that description is asked to call the state police barracks in Springfield at (413) 736-9390.

Gordon said state police are concerned that the sport utility vehicle driver might be drunk.

“It’s scary that this guy could have been in any of those three lanes and chose the lane closest to the trooper,” Gordon said.

He said six state troopers have been struck by drunken drivers in the last two months statewide. “It’s not just us, it’s the people we’re trying to protect as well,” Gordon said.

Gordon said he is concerned as there are fewer state troopers, which he said has an impact on drunken driving and speeding enforcement. There are about 500 fewer state troopers compared to 2005. Gordon is the union representative for the state police association in Massachusetts.

In June, Sgt. Douglas Weddleton, 52, of Brockton, was outside his cruiser on Interstate 95 north near exit 6 in Mansfield working a construction detail when he was hit and killed just before 1:30 a.m.