GALAX, Va. – The Galax police chief is sending a message to all drivers after one of his own was seriously hurt in a crash.
The officer was responding to a call when his car was hit while crossing an intersection. The impact of that crash sent the officer into another car and then into a tree.
The crash happened at the intersection of Main and Grayson streets around 5:45 Tuesday night while the officer was responding to another call. Paint can still be seen on the street from where state police recreated the crash. Police say this officer is lucky to have survived.
Once the call came through to dispatch, Chief Dewitt Cooper jumped into action.
"I just heard that there was an accident and I just knew that I needed to get there," said Cooper. "So, I didn't know what was going on. I was just thinking, 'OK, what needs to be done?'"
The officer was flown to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital.
Cooper is grateful the officer is OK, but shaken up.
"Everybody's just happy nobody really got injured, nobody's really hurt," said Cooper.
The close call hits home for City Manager Keith Barker, who knew Curtis Bartlett -- the Carroll County deputy killed in a 2017 crash while chasing a suspect.
"He lived very close to my parents, so everybody knew who Curtis was, and obviously it does drive home the impact of officers trying to proceed safely to an accident," said Barker.
In Galax, traffic lights automatically turn green when police are responding to a call. The lights at this intersection were working when the crash happened. The driver who hit the officer could face charges.
While the investigation is ongoing, Chief Cooper says it's a tragic reminder for drivers everywhere that a careless decision could cost someone's life.
"You know, when we're out here, we try to just do our jobs. That's all it is. You know, just please stop with the distractions and pay attention to what's going on," said Cooper. "Get off the cellphones, pay attention, you know? Stop being distracted by the signs in the street. Just drive safely."