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A Utah Highway Patrol trooper was in good spirits, and hopes were high for a full recovery Thursday, the day after he underwent extensive surgery to reconnect four fingers severed in a crash the day before.
UHP Cpl. Todd Johnson said the trooper, Sgt. Chris Dunn, came out of a University Hospital operating room shortly after 11 p.m. Surgeons had begun the painstaking, eight-hour-plus process of reattaching the digits, and reconnecting nerve, bone and muscular tissue, on Wednesday afternoon.
"He was conscious, alert and talking to everyone. He's doing really well," Johnson said. "The surgery went as well as could be expected. They reattached the fingers of his left hand, but he also had a lot of trauma to his forearm."
Johnson said it will be "several days before doctors will know" how much use Dunn, who is right-handed, will have of his left hand fingers.
At least, Johnson confirmed, when the swelling goes down Dunn should be able to once more wear his wedding ring, which was located when the trooper's digits were being recovered at the accident scene.
Dunn who has been with the force 14 years was standing by the open driver-side door of his patrol car on Interstate 80 in Parleys Canyon when a utility-type truck approached the accident scene and struck him.
Unified Police Department accident-scene-reconstruction investigators say the trooper's arm and hand may have been caught between the door of his UHP squad car and the vehicle's body at the time of the accident.
Michael Pomee, 21, who was driving a Mitsubishi flatbed truck, reported difficulty shifting gears shortly before he crashed into Dunn's UHP unit, which was one of several parked in an outside lane processing the initial crash; the truck was eastbound in the next lane over.
UPD Lt. Justin Hoyal said Pomee told investigators he had looked down briefly at the gear shift and drifted into the outside lane, hitting Dunn's car before he could stop or swerve. Dunn apparently had the door open and was getting back into his unit when the crash occurred.
Pomee was shaken, but did not suffer physical injuries. Johnson said the truck took about a half-mile to stop as it plowed through traffic restriction cones.
"I understand there was no indication he was trying to get away; it just took him that long to get completely stopped," Johnson said.
Hoyal said no citations had been issued pending the conclusion of the UPD investigation and the screening of possible charges by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.
The accident involving the trooper occurred at 8:26 a.m. Wednesday near Lambs Canyon. Troopers were there investigating an earlier 6:27 a.m. crash in which a van rear-ended a tractor-trailer truck.
Dunn is the fifth trooper to be struck by a vehicle this year, according to the UHP.