Most law enforcement officers when asked what we enjoy about law enforcement will say that we enjoy helping people. Rarely do law enforcement officers speak about what may keep them up at night, or what situations they have encountered that are the ones that live on with them. For me, these are often the fatalities that I have been involved with and, to be more specific, the fatalities that involved the children.
No fatality is “easy” to work. All of them are different and affect each officer differently. However, I will say that some memories do not fade. Specifically, I can remember night, day, weather conditions and circumstances of each of the fatalities that involved children. Whether that may be a cold, wintery night or a sunny, hot summer day. ALL fatal crashes involving children live vividly in my memory. The one that I will speak of specifically is a rollover crash that involved a 7-year-old child who was not buckled in his seat belt.
It was a late winter night and I was at home for the evening. I received a phone call from dispatch that I was requested to respond to a fatal crash on I-35 involving one vehicle and one person had passed away at the scene. Upon arriving, I looked at the scene and made my plan on how I was going to conduct my investigation. I asked to see the victim and the location of the victim. What I saw that night will never leave my memory. In the median, a 7-year-old child was thrown from the vehicle and succumbed to his injuries from the crash. This was one of the crashes that you had always heard about, and hoped you never had to be involved in (a crash involving a child). I worked the crash and went back home to get some rest before the start of my next shift.
At this time in my life, my son was also 7-years-old, so this tragic incident affected me on a more personal level. I remember getting home in the early morning hours. The first thing I did was go to my son’s room and I stood there watching him sleep soundly. I then grabbed my son and just hugged him. I hugged him long enough that he had woken up, and I could tell that he was wondering what was going on. I told him that I loved him and that I would always love him.
Why am I telling such a personal story? I want our public to realize that at any time in our lives tragedy can occur. I was always told while growing up that you never know what tomorrow brings. So, when I witness such tragedy, I remember that saying. The last thing I want in my life is to leave my children wondering if I love them. As Put the Brakes on Fatalities day approaches, I think it is important for each person in our society to reflect and realize that at any moment tragedy can impact our lives and to remember that you never know what tomorrow brings. Therefore, hug your loved ones tight, and always make sure they know that you love them.
Fatal crashes can be avoided, and victims of crashes can survive the crash if we all take the time to use the safety measures that we have been taught. Our greatest future is our children and it is our responsibility as parents to make sure that we protect our children the best we can from allowing tragedy to impact their lives. Our children learn from us, so buckle up and drive safe. This may save the life of you or your child one day.
Casey Simoneau is a Technical Trooper for the Kansas Highway Patrol