Mangled by texting driver, trooper slowly mends

Last updated: 05-06-2021

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Mangled by texting driver, trooper slowly mends

Mangled by texting driver, trooper slowly mends
Sun Sentinel |
Feb 01, 2018 at 12:40 PM
Florida Highway Patrol State Trooper Carlos Rosario was conducting a traffic stop on March 17, 2017 when he was struck by a car whose driver was texting. He suffered extensive injuries but with the help of surgeries and physical therapy, he is recovering.
Eleven months after a texting driver smashed into him, Florida state trooper Carlos Rosario still sees double. His disfigured mouth doesn’t close properly. He can’t raise his right eyebrow. His toes go numb, and he can’t drive.
“I’ve learned to be used to the pain,” he said. “There’s always pain.”
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Rosario, a trooper for 12 years, was left mangled when a 26-year-old driver, glancing down at his phone at 89 mph, lost control as Rosario clocked speeders along State Road 836 in Miami-Dade County.
Court records show that Hugo Olivares sent four texts and received six messages in the seven minutes leading up to the crash. When Rosario tried to stop a car in front of him, Olivares couldn’t slow down, spun out of control and hit Rosario as he stood near the road .
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The 41-year-old trooper suffered a broken back, two broken legs, a broken arm and a broken jaw. His face was sliced and “opened like the predator,” a sci-fi character, he said.
Rosario has no memory of the day, March 17, 2017. He lay unconscious for the next three weeks. Relatives tell him he was responsive to their words and touch, but he doesn’t recall their bedside vigil.
With screws, rods and plates in his legs and jaw, Rosario is on the mend today, though he still faces more surgery and months of rigorous physical therapy.
“Before three months came up, I was already walking without a walker, through the glory of God,” he said. Now he is able to jog a mile, with a few walking breaks.
As remarkable as his recovery, though, are his feelings toward the young man who made it necessary.
Rosario said he immediately forgave Olivares upon learning he wasn’t a criminal and he was about the same age as his own two sons.
“I don’t want him to do any time at all,” Rosario said. “I know the effects of a prison on a kid. I didn’t want the kid to be influenced in any way — I did want him to learn from it.”
By Erika Pesantes  and John Maines
Feb 04, 2018 at 3:40 PM
Olivares was charged with reckless driving with bodily injury. He was sentenced in December to five years’ probation, lost his driver’s license for two years and was ordered to do community service, a punishment Rosario signed off on with prosecutors.
In an apology letter to the trooper, Olivares wrote: “If I could turn back time, I would not have used my phone while I was driving that day. There is nothing so important that requires a text message in response while driving.”
In his letter, Olivares indicated that he wanted to bring media attention to distracted driving and become a “catalyst for change,” but Olivares and his attorney declined to comment for this story.
As a victim , Rosario supports efforts to make texting and driving a primary offense in Florida, meaning police could pull over drivers without needing another reason to stop them.
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He also believes high school students should be given sobering lessons about distracted driving and its deadly consequences.
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About four months before Rosario’s accident, the husband of his wife’s cousin was killed by a texting driver in California. “My family got affected twice in the same year,” he said.
Beth Guarin, physical therapist at Baptist Health Neurological Rehabilitation Center at Baptist Hospital, works with Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Carlos Rosario. He was severely injured by a texting driver in Miami-Dade County in March 2017. (Taimy Alvarez / Sun Sentinel)
He had hoped to return to work by March 17, on the one-year anniversary of his crash. But his body isn’t ready. He is still intensively trying to strengthen his muscles and regain motion through physical therapy.
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Small tasks that most people would take for granted are still challenging: standing up from sitting, pulling up a pair of shorts, pouring himself a cup of coffee.
Through the exercises — whether it’s performing mini-squats or tossing and catching a basketball — Rosario improves his lost capabilities little by little. Some routines are tougher, more painful, but he grimaces through the aches and cramps and his limitations.
“I could have easily died. I could have become a vegetable,” Rosario said. “But, look, I’m here. There’s a reason.”
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