They sustained significant, but not life-threatening injuries, police said
Updated at 2:10 p.m. with trooper IDs, new details
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
State police from the Avondale barracks got a somber reminder of the dangers of the job this morning when a patrol car hurrying to a potential crime scene crashed head-on into a tree and burst into flames, entrapping two troopers.
Police said troopers responding to the same incident used fire extinguishers and buckets from neighboring homes to put out the flames. Fire and rescue crews removed the vehicle’s roof to extricate the troopers, who were transported to Christiana Hospital in Delaware, with serious but not life-threatening injuries, police said.
Trooper Corey Monthei, a barracks spokesman, said Trooper Michael Hall was released from the hospital this morning with injuries not as serious as initially feared. “He’s banged up, but he’s going to be fine,” said Monthei, adding that the injuries suffered by Trooper Aaron Dykes were more involved.
Dykes, the popular running backs’ coach for the Unionville High football team, remains at Christiana Hospital, where Monthei said he is in stable condition.
“We’re just breathing a collective sigh of relief,” Monthei said. “We’re very thankful that it wasn’t worse.”
The crash occurred at 5:30 a.m. on Rt. 796, a quarter-mile south of Kelton Road in Penn Township, police said. The two troopers were traveling southbound on Rt. 796 in a marked vehicle after receiving a report of a burglary in progress. While negotiating a curve, the vehicle left the roadway and struck a large tree head-on, police said. Monthei said police later learned that the 9-1-1 call about a burglary-in-progress was placed by an elderly woman who was confused and may be suffering from dementia.
Monthei described a chaotic but heroic rescue scene. He said several patrol units were responding to the reported burglary so troopers were on the scene immediately. He said passing motorists also stopped to assist. “We keep Tupperware bins full of gear in our vehicles,” he said. Those were emptied and filled with water from a neighbor’s bathtub, he said, creating “a bucket brigade.”
One of the responders was Trooper Chad Burgwald, Monthei said. Burgwald was on the receiving end of that kind of scenario a little over a year over when he was monitoring traffic on Rt. 1 in New Garden Township and a drunk-driver slammed into his patrol vehicle, pinning him inside. The driver, Heather DeLong, 47, of Glen Mills, is serving a state prison term.