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My name is Dan Toneck; I am the officer in San Diego who lost a leg after being struck by a drunk driver. I will be getting a prosthetic leg this week and hopefully it will make it easier for me to get down to the computer room at my parent's house. What a hard time it is right now on crutches coming down all the stairs. It will be nice when I get my leg and can move back to my house. I'm not married and live alone. When I got hurt this bad I had to move home with my parents for awhile.
I joined the San Diego Police Department in October of 1989. I took a non-sworn position until Sept. of 1990 when I started the police academy as a sworn officer. I was assigned to Central Patrol Division following the academy where I worked a radio car in downtown San Diego. Following Central Patrol, I was assigned to the Mounted Enforcement Unit where I rode police horses full time. One day my horse rolled on me breaking my right hip, and kicked me in the head while I tried to get up. That was the end of me riding horses. Following my recovery I went to Traffic Division where I was assigned to work accident investigations.
I have worked special projects such as the typical undercover narcotic, buy/busts and vice prostitution stings and a little bit of dignitary protection for both Regan and Bush. During 1996 I was assigned to the Republican National Convention Security Planning Unit where I was assigned to diagram the secured areas. Currently I have been using my computer skills to produce computer animations of accident reconstructions.
Here is the story behind the accident...
Over the summer, I was assigned to Traffic Accident Investigations Bureau working a crash car on the graveyard shift. My responsibilities are the investigation of any DUI, fatal, serious injury, or police involved collision. Traffic cops in San Diego pretty much work city wide. Though you are assigned an area of the city, we are usually short handed and the administration doesn't pressure us to stay in our assigned areas. It's not uncommon for me to come into work, and only have two of us working any given night. When this happens, I take 1/2 of the city, and my partner will take the other half.
On August 13, we had a full squad working the city, but we had been hit hard with bad collisions and by about midnight, I was the only clear traffic unit working the city. I was making my way out to the beach when I heard a vehicle vs. pedestrian call come out over the radio. I was about 2 miles away, and since veh vs. ped crashes seem to land in traffic division's hands, I started for the scene.
Upon my arrival, I found that a transient had been walking against a red light and was struck by a small green GEO station wagon driven by two young women. Medics were on scene, and the transient appeared to have a minor skull fracture. Eyeballing the impact damage, it looked like he got hit at about 5 mph, and hurt himself falling off the hood. He must have been really malnourished to have bones that weak. The scene was small with few points of evidence, and we positioned our police cars between the open roadway and the collision scene. We turned on our overhead lightbars for visibility, and traffic routed itself around the cars to the left to avoid the scene. I always put metal between me and the open road.
It only took me about 15 minutes to investigate the collision. Per our department policy, at any serious injury collision 35mm photos have to be taken. Our equipment is old, and my camera didn't work anymore so I called for another traffic unit to clear and assist me. While I was waiting for the officer to show up, I walked to the back of my police car (which was parked facing the direction of traffic). As I walked back there, I remember seeing no traffic. Behind my car (dead center), I opened my trunk, threw my tape measure into my box of equipment and slammed the trunk shut. It was that fast. Right after the trunk slammed, I was still looking down at the back of the trunk when I heard a short skid, heard my sergeant yell "Dan lookout!", saw a white hood and headlight hit my left leg pinning it to the rear bumper of my police car and my police car lurch forward. Following impact, I tried to hop a couple of times to keep my balance. I could see that my leg had been broken, my left foot turned around backwards. It didn't look like I had anything in my lower left pant leg. I fell down on my back on the asphalt between the squad car and the bullet vehicle.
I felt white-hot pain in my left leg. I tried to sit up and feel the leg for damage but with my vest and gunbelt on I couldn't sit up far enough. I'm not fat, but with all the gear on it's really hard to get up. I felt a wet feeling on my leg and then saw the blood start just like a fawcet being opened up. I was scared seeing the blood. My sergeat ran up to me and I could see he was really scared also. I told him "I've got a compound fracture to my left tib/fib and I'm bleeding bad. I need you to put some pressure on my knee fast or I'm going to bleed out. Don't worry- just do it. I'm clean, I don't have any nasty diseases."
My sergeant is pretty heavy, and he got down on his knees and put all of his weight on my leg trying to stop the blood. Two other officers had run up by then. One held my head, the other held my hand. They tried to keep me talking. The blood just kept running while we waited for Fire and Paramedics to show up. The pain was incredible. I could feel that I was losing control of my body and told the officers "I'm in bad shape you guys better get medics here fast I need to be transported right now." I could hear cops yelling and swearing on the radio trying to speed up the medics. I remember looking at my leg and my sergeant holding my knee with blood flowing 30 feet into the gutter, looking up at the officer holding my hand, then I looked up at the sky at the stars and realized I was going to die in the street. I passed out with them yelling my name. I tried to keep it together, but I just couldn't stay awake. Everything faded to black and as I went out I thought I had died.
After about 2 minutes, my throat had relaxed and I had started vomiting. I woke up and the officers were trying to turn me on my side. They couldn't get my mouth open because my teeth were clinched from the pain. I heard the Fire rig pull up and the cops yelling at the firemen for taking so long to drive a few blocks to our scene. The station was just down the street. The ambulance that transported me had been the rig that had transported the transient from my scene to the hospital. They had heard another ambulance dispatched for me, however the team on that ambulance never responded to their radio. The first ambulance quickly dropped off the transient and made it back to my scene in 18 minutes.
After applying a tourniquet, they loaded me in the ambulance and sped me off to the hospital. The officers in the area ran an escort blocking side streets and eventually completely blocked off the freeway to make sure another drunk didn't hit the ambulance. I was awake the entire time and could see how worried the medics were.
Laying on the trauma table, the trauma staff packed my leg in ice. Later, they said that I was as white as the table from the loss of blood. I've spent a lot of time in trauma rooms chasing collisions, and it was scary knowing what was going on. I could hear the trauma surgeon talking "What we have is a partial amputation. Lower left extremety is white with no feeling. I want the 'A' team bone doctor and vascular surgeon called on this one. Call them and get them enroute and prep the O.R."
As I lay on the table waiting, I kept shaking. Some of it was from being naked and cold on the table, some from pain. I was holding on as tight as I could to the table to try to take the pain. Bright lights were shining on my face and I closed my eyes. I felt long hair hit my face, tears and the smell of my girlfriend. She is a medic and worked on the same ambulance that had transported me. She was off that night and the medics had called her. She whispered "Dan, I'm here. You have to pull through this and come back for me. I love you."
I heard the Chief of Police say "Dan, I'm here. Your parents are on their way. I'll be here and meet them outside." My dad was a San Diego Police Officer for 33 years prior to retiring 5 years ago, and the Chief has known me since I was a baby. A few minutes later I could hear my mom, dad and sister in the trauma room talking. I saw how scared they were. They said that they would be there for me and be there when I got out of surgery. My dad leaned over and as they wheeled me to the operating room I told him "Try to get them to save my leg."
When I woke up, I had a tube down my throat and couldn't talk. I could only move my left hand and couldn't feel my left leg. My family was standing around me with my sergeant and a couple other policemen. I had to spell everything with my finger on my sister's hand. "Not dead." My sister said "No, you're not dead." I spelled "Foot." My family skipped it and started talking about not moving, or waiting for the anesthetic to wear off and to just rest. I spelled again "Foot." The room got very quiet and everyone looked at my dad. He leaned over and started to cry. "They couldn't save it." I spelled on my sister's hand "Not bitter."
I spent 17 days in the hospital. The doctors had tried to save portions of skin from my leg to wrap around the end of my leg, but the skin kept dying. I my fever spiked at 103 for the first week and I had 4 major surguries which left me with a knee disarticulation, or "through the knee" amputation. Following the hospital, I had to move home to my parents' house because I couldn't feed myself, or walk. I had to stay with them 3 months.
As of now, (Nov. 3), the woman who hit me, 27 year old Monica Thayer, has pleaded guilty to felony drunk driving. She faces 6 years in prison maximum. At the time of the collision, she had a blood alcohol level of .22% with traces of LSD in her system. The judge handing the case has accepted her plea of guilty and is leaning towards giving her probation because this is her first offense. It doesn't surprise me, but it makes me sad that she could get really drunk and cut my leg off and walk away from it. Sentencing is December 18th, and I will be permitted to speak. I plan on taking off my prosthetic and show the court, her, the judge and the press how horrible my leg looks with the large frankenstein skin grafts and scars. I have at least 2 years of minor surgeries left to go through, and will be down learning to walk for at least a year. Minimum, I hope she gets the same punishment I got for getting my leg cut off- 1 year.
PLEASE SEND ALL CORRESPONDENCE AND GIFTS TO THE INDICATED ADDRESS.Officer Dan Toneck