A tow truck driver, who investigators say admitted he fell asleep at the wheel, veered off Alligator Alley and slammed into a trooper’s car Monday morning.
First responders rushed Florida Highway Patrol trooper, Gualberto Morales, to Physicians Regional Hospital. He was later released and sent home to rest and recuperate, FHP spokesman Lt. Greg Bueno said.
“It’s something that we dread hearing come over the radio,” Bueno said. “To hear a panic of a trooper struck or potentially injured and that’s something our hearts sink for.”
Morales was sitting in his cruiser on the shoulder of Alligator Alley, two miles east of the toll booth, at the time of the crash. He had just completed a traffic stop, Bueno said.
FHP says that’s when Duante Bell, 26, who is a tow truck driver for Southwest Transport, veered off the side of the road and sideswiped him.
Bell was not hurt. He told us, without the cage and bar inside his car, he could have died. He wants people to know this crash should serve as a wake-up call to driver even though the crash wasn’t fatal.
Troopers said a few more inches and it could have been a different outcome for Morales. FHP said the crash serves as a reminder to drivers that they must remain alert at the wheel.
“All of us have our own stories where we could share near misses or times we’ve been struck,” Bueno said, “and it’s concerning to us.”
Morales is a veteran who served 20 years in the U.S. Armed Forces. He did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Morales is also a recipient of the Public Safety Office Medal of Valor for trying to rescue a family trapped in a car underwater in 2013 and a similar situation in 2012 when a tractor trailer crash into a canal and dove in to save the people inside and waited until backup arrived.
Bueno said FHP cited Bell for careless driving, which is a moving violation that carries a fine and 4 points onto his license.
“All we’re asking the public is to move over,” Bueno said. ‘Certainly be 100% focused behind the wheel. And, of course, don’t hit us as we’re trying to hold other drivers accountable”
Morales echoed Bueno and said he wants to tell all drivers to be safe whether you’re a man or woman with a badge or a civilian on the road.