Trooper after ramming: ‘I felt like the world was coming to an end’

LYNNWOOD — Trooper Chris Caiola was stiff, sore and grateful to be alive Tuesday, hours after his parked Washington State Patrol car was rammed on the shoulder of I-5 in Lynnwood.

“It could have been worse, a lot worse,” he said.

The driver of the

other car was booked into the Snohomish County Jail Tuesday for investigation of being a minor in possession of alcohol, reckless endangerment and driving after drinking alcohol while under the age of 21.

The Everett woman, 19, said she had been at a home where marijuana was being smoked but said she did not have any, according to court documents. She admitted having a sip of alcohol and told an investigator she was eight weeks pregnant.

She and her three passengers were examined by medics at the crash scene but were not seriously injured. They had been driving to Gas Works Park in Seattle.

The accident occurred around 10:45 p.m. Monday on a southbound stretch of the freeway near 196th Street SW. Caiola had just finished a traffic stop and was typing up a report on a laptop computer.

He heard no squeal of brakes and had no warning before his car was struck from behind.

“I heard what initially sounded to me like an explosion,” he said.

It felt like someone picked up the car and shook it, he said.

In the chaotic moments afterward, he searched for but could not find his cell phone to call his wife. His portable radio was wedged beneath the gas pedal. The passenger side door was pinned against a concrete barrier and the driver’s side door was smashed in and wouldn’t open.

Caiola, a canine officer, called out to Buster, his drug-sniffing police dog. There was no sound from the backseat. He noticed specks of dust floating in the light.

“I felt like the world was coming to an end,” he said.

The police dog, Buster, was examined at a Lynnwood veterinary hospital and given a clean bill of health.

Caiola, 41, was treated and released from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He had bumps and bruises and was feeling soreness in his chest and shoulder Tuesday afternoon. Troopers believe the car that struck Caiola’s vehicle was traveling around the speed limit, which is 60 mph.

Leary said Monday’s accident shows how dangerous the job of a trooper can be.

Between 2006 and 2009, the Washington State Patrol alone had 80 collisions involving vehicles striking trooper cars pulled over on the highway.

There were seven roadside collisions in 2010 and eight so far this year.

Caiola said he has no feelings of ill will toward the driver.

“I just hope she looks at this as a learning experience,” he said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com .

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