Sergeant left with broken neck after DUI crash

Posted at 8:23 AM, Feb 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-26 10:23:29-05

In just another reminder of the dangers our law enforcement officers face each day, an Adams County Sheriff's Office sergeant is recovering from a broken neck after being hit by a suspected drunk driver.

Sgt. Aaron Pataluna was on patrol overnight on Feb. 13 when he was stopped at a light on Highway 85 and 120th Avenue in Henderson.

"I heard a loud noise, and my vehicle was launched through the intersection," Pataluna recalled. "I know I blacked out for a few moments."

He said when he came to, some men were at his window asking if he was alright. He said despite the pain in his body, particularly his neck, he went to check on the other driver to make sure he was OK. It wasn't until he got to the hospital that he learned his neck was broken.

"Once they said that, you think, 'Well gosh, paralysis comes with broken necks, or death even,'" he said.

Luckily, Pataluna is expected to make a full recovery and return to work in a few months.

"I thank God every day that I'm here still," Pataluna said.

He said seeing what happened to the car he was in brought home how much worse it could have been. He believes the DUI driver hitting his car may have saved someone else.

"The one thing I'm really thankful for with this accident is that he actually hit me," Pataluna said. "Because if he hadn’t hit me, he would’ve T-boned somebody in the intersection. It could’ve been much worse for another family."

After speaking against drunk driving for much of his career, Pataluna is now a walking example of the damage that can be done.

"If you drink that’s fine, but don’t drive. Don’t climb behind the wheel," he said. "It's not worth your life or anybody else’s life to go out and drive drunk."

The Adam's County District Attorney's Office has not released the name of the suspected drunk driver.  A spokeswoman said charges should be filed on Friday.