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Injured trooper improves slightly

Driver, 18, faces arraignment today

By Douglas Belkin and Elizabeth Boch, Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent, 7/28/2003

he medical condition of a state trooper whose cruiser was rear-ended by an allegedly drunk teenage driver improved slightly yesterday after surgeons performed another operation, a State Police trooper said.



But the co-worker, familiar with her injuries, said the outlook is grim. ''If she does survive,'' said State Police Trooper Scott Shubert, ''it's going to be a question of what her quality of life is going to be.''

Trooper Ellen E. Engelhardt, a 22-year veteran, suffered massive head trauma at 6:10 a.m. Saturday when a 1991 Volvo driven by a recent Wayland High School graduate slammed into her cruiser at nearly 100 miles an hour in the breakdown lane of Route 25 in Wareham. Engelhardt's car was hurled nearly 200 feet. She was rushed into surgery at Boston Medical Center, where she was listed in critical condition yesterday.

''Her condition has improved somewhat, but it's still not good,'' Shubert said. ''She has a severe head injury.''

An avid runner and single mother who raised her daughter with the help of her parents while working the midnight shift, Engelhardt was described by colleagues yesterday as a role model for women on the force.

''She's just a very, very strong woman,'' said Trooper Denise Fisher, the only other woman in the South Yarmouth barracks, where 28 troopers work. ''She was well-liked by everyone.''

Meanwhile, 18-year-old William P. Senne, a former football player and student council co-president at Wayland High School, was released on bail after he was arrested on charges of operating under the influence of alcohol, speeding, operating in the breakdown lane, and operating to endanger. He is scheduled to be arraigned today in Wareham District Court.

On Saturday, he was treated for minor injuries at Tobey Hospital in Wareham and released.

Senne's sister, Holly Senne, declined to elaborate on where her brother was going or coming from at the time of the crash, but she said that she hopes Engelhardt recovers from her injuries.

''We're all just praying for that woman,'' she said.

The Senne family has a summer house on the middle of Bassetts Island, which is accessible only by boat. Yesterday, no one answered the door at their home, which is one of only five on the 60-acre island, off of Cape Cod. A neighbor said that Senne has worked there summers teaching sailing to children and had been on the island a few days ago.

''A damn good sailor,'' said Tom O'Flaherty, who lives on the island. ''Any time he goes by in his boat, he waves. He's extraordinarily friendly.''

According to State Police, Senne said he had fallen asleep at the wheel while heading to Cape Cod. Eyewitnesses said he was driving in excess of 90 miles per hour.

Yesterday at Boston Medical Center, about a dozen family members, friends, and state troopers gathered outside Engelhardt's fifth-floor room in the intensive care unit, Massachusetts State Police Lieutenant Robert Sayers said.

''We're just saying our prayers and keeping our vigil here,'' Sayers said. Of her condition, he said, ''It's critical. It's very critical.''

Engelhardt, 50, was among the first women to become a state trooper. She entered the academy in February of 1981, less than a decade after the first female entered the ranks, Shubert said.

Co-workers described Engelhardt as the consummate professional, a trooper who went out of her way to mentor other women in the workplace.

''She was very kind, very friendly,'' Fisher said. ''When I came on the job the first day, she made a point to talk to me and asked if I needed any help . . . she was a role model to her shift.''

Shubert said yesterday that it was not known why Engelhardt was stopped in the breakdown lane but noted it was near the end of her shift, and she may have pulled over to observe traffic. Shubert said it was not known yesterday if Engelhardt was wearing a seatbelt when Senne smashed into her car.

Engelhardt had returned to work five months ago after being injured in a similar rear-end crash.

Saturday's accident sent shock waves through the state's law enforcement community. Yesterday, the hospital switchboard was swamped by people offering get-well wishes and calling to check on her, Sayers said.

They've ''received so many phone calls that they're asking people not to call the hospital,'' he said.

In Wayland, friends of Senne said they were shocked by the news of the crash.

''You don't hear about that kind of thing here,'' said Carol Glick, who lives near Senne's home. ''There are two lives ruined.''

Senne was a popular member of his high school class who was planning to attend Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, friends said.

Adam Romanow, one of Senne's friends, described him as ''a gentleman'' who did not have any enemies at school.

He had a passion for sailing, Romanow said, a passion that brought him to the Cape often during the summer.

Engelhardt's passions ran more toward gardening, physical fitness, and vintage cars, her neighbors said yesterday. She was an avid runner who worked out regularly in the barracks gym, and her landscaping ''set the standard for the neighborhood,'' said Jere Downing, who lives next door to Engelhardt in a quiet, seaside neighborhood in Marion.

Engelhardt lives with another state trooper, neighbors said, and two cruisers are frequently parked in the driveway along with two vintage Corvettes that Engelhardt babied.

''We've always felt so safe because we have two state troopers next door,'' Downing said. ''There's just no rhyme or reason sometimes.''
 

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I hope that guy goes down for the maximum they can give him.

When will people ever learn.
 

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I swear to GOD, if any family member or friend of mine is hit by a drunk driver, that driver will have a early death. That story is just sad. [censored} idiot! People like that need to be tied to a pole and have bottles of beer and Jack thrown at them. Once near that person's death, somebody drives a [censored} car into them to finish this off. If your drunk, stay the f*** out of your car! I can deal with alot of issues, but this one will get me any and every time.
thank you
 

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I wish her a quick and full recovery. How awful.
 

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I wish her a quick and full recovery. How awful.
Same here, One question.Did the Vic burst into flames?? Like the other cry aby police out there complaining about thier cars catching fire in a rear end crash.
 

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I swear to GOD, if any family member or friend of mine is hit by a drunk driver, that driver will have a early death. That story is just sad. [censored} idiot! People like that need to be tied to a pole and have bottles of beer and Jack thrown at them. Once near that person's death, somebody drives a [censored} car into them to finish this off. If your drunk, stay the f*** out of your car! I can deal with alot of issues, but this one will get me any and every time.
thank you
If you read the whole thing, he was "Alleged" to be drunk. They Report no Test results here. maybe they're not complete, but they're not currently announced.
HE says he fell asleep at the wheel.
He May well be lying, BUT let's not Crucify the man w/o ALL of the Facts.
I pray that she Recovers, and Wish her Family the Best, Especially her Daughter.
How Ironic that she had just returned 5 months ago after being only slightly injured in a similar crash....

Maybe cops will stop parking like that, and "Hiding" for Speed Traps.
As I understand it, Rhode Island made it Illegal for officers to come to a Stop anywhere besides a parking lot w/o using their lights.
That sounds like a Life-Saving Plan to me...
 

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True, you do have to look at both sides. Regardless, it's pretty apparent that he's at fault, alcohol or no, but it certainly doesn't help that she was parked on the shoulder, likely without her lights on. I've seen cops in MI parked in ridiculous places, like the inside shoulder on 696 near Woodward just around a bend, where any idiot with they're eyes elsewhere could plow the [censored] out of the cruiser.
 

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As I understand it, Rhode Island made it Illegal for officers to come to a Stop anywhere besides a parking lot w/o using their lights.
That sounds like a Life-Saving Plan to me...
Actually Mike, in MA it is illegal for a cop to set up a speed trap without being visible. The car must have AT LEAST their parking lights on, so they can be seen.

We actually have no idea why she was on the side of the road, but Im pretty sure she would at least have her hazard lights on. Who knows, I guess we wait till the story develops more.
 

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Re: Mass. Trooper in a Crown Vic Rear Ended @100m

If the officer had been in a S90 she might have walked away also. Another example that big does not equal safe, engineering and testing does.
 

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Re: Mass. Trooper in a Crown Vic Rear Ended @100m

Glad she wasn't in Dallas. Once a Crown Vic rolls into Dallas County, they automatically burst into flames when tapped from behind. Seriously though, I hope she is alright, though from the sounds of things she won't be. As for the accused, whether he is drunk or just sleepy, he is still at fault and should be punished accordingly.
 

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Re: Mass. Trooper in a Crown Vic Rear Ended @100m

From what I've heard, the reason most of the drunks are able to walk away from crashes like these is due to the alcohol and its affects on the central nervous system. Since the drunk driver's reaction time is significantly slower than that of a sober driver, their body isn't as rigid (tight - non-flexible) when a catastrophic event (such as a car crash) occurs. When a body is rigid, it can't absorb the impact as well as a someone whose body isn't. This is when most bodily damage is done.

I hope the Trooper makes it!
- Jay
 

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Re: Mass. Trooper in a Crown Vic Rear Ended @100m

From what I've heard, the reason most of the drunks are able to walk away from crashes like these is due to the alcohol and its affects on the central nervous system. Since the drunk driver's reaction time is significantly slower than that of a sober driver, their body isn't as rigid (tight - non-flexible) when a catastrophic event (such as a car crash) occurs. When a body is rigid, it can't absorb the impact as well as a someone whose body isn't. This is when most bodily damage is done.

I hope the Trooper makes it!
- Jay
That's correct just like a sleepy driver they don't know their about to collide so they don't tense up like the trooper prolly did when she looked up or back ans saw it coming...man either way i pray for her health...but he should go away for a long time... my brother almost died b/c he was sleepy and i am sorry to say if any1 got hurt he woul have to be punished accordingly...she worked hard as hell to be cut short by some jackoff going 100 to get there asap ......burn em. j/k
 

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Re: Mass. Trooper in a Crown Vic Rear Ended @100m

I am sure there are some medical reasons why drunks survive wicked crashes better than others, but here is one reason from someone with an engineering background.

When a drunk hits someone he is using the largest and longest part of the car to do so. That part of the car is designed to collapse and crush and not normally intrude into the cabin. The rear of any car is not subjected to the same impact tests as the front is. Nor is the side. A lot of drunks drill cars in the side as they run a red light and this will usually do a lot more damage to the stricken car.

When you take a old design chassis like the police car in question, it never stood a chance against the Volvo, which is designed to survive just about any crash without collapsing the cabin.

Volvo and Mercedes are the only two companies in the business that do more than the minimum crash worthiness requirements on every single car in their lineup. Everyone else just does the minimum and believe me, a frigging monkey can meet those requirements. Ever wonder why Volvo and Mercedes owners are some of the most loyal to their brand?
 

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Doesn't really matter what she was doing on the side of the road lights on or not if the dude was sleeping at the wheel...I hope she makes it not only for her and her family's sake but also for the kid that hit her
 

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Doesn't really matter what she was doing on the side of the road lights on or not if the dude was sleeping at the wheel...:(
I've never been to MA but I'm willing to bet that MA State Police units have 8,237 reflective stickers on them. There is an IL trooper that lives in my subdivision and I can see his car from 3+ blocks away.

God speed to the trooper. It's a shame that someones life can be stolen by a stranger thats smart enough to pass a drivers test but too stupid to use it responsibly. Allegedly. And to think you don't need a license to reproduce...
 

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True, you do have to look at both sides. Regardless, it's pretty apparent that he's at fault, alcohol or no, but it certainly doesn't help that she was parked on the shoulder, likely without her lights on. I've seen cops in MI parked in ridiculous places, like the inside shoulder on 696 near Woodward just around a bend, where any idiot with they're eyes elsewhere could plow the [censored] out of the cruiser.
If you don't have cops on the shoulder, who's going to stop the people driving 100mph with their eyes closed?
 
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