PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Officials are celebrating the actions of a Florida Highway Patrol trooper that blocked the path of an allegedly impaired driver near a local 10K race over the weekend.
In a split second on Sunday morning, Trooper Toni Schuck jumped into action when a driver broke through barricades surrounding the Skyway 10K race.
"Where I was positioned is probably about a half a mile from the starting point, and so in my mind, I'm thinking, 'She's going to stop,'" Schuck said. "We have another checkpoint that she's going to stop at."
The driver didn't stop for other officers. Dashcam video shows that Schuck, a 26-year veteran of the Patrol, positioned her car in the middle of the road, blocking the path, in what she called an instinct. She thought if the driver saw her, they would stop.
But the driver didn't stop. Instead, the car ran into Shuck's cruiser nearly head-on.
"It's hard, because I've done this for 26 years, and I've never been in this position. I've never been in this position where I've had to put myself for somebody else," Schuck said. "Every day since it's happened, I've thought about it. You go through the what-ifs, but I was the last officer. I knew that. I knew it was me, so if it wasn't me to get her to stop, then who?"
Pictures show how the collision mangled both cars. Schuck said she wonders what could have happened had she not put herself in harm's way.
"After I was put into the ambulance and we were going over the Skyway to go to the hospital, I got to I don't know what point of the bridge it was, but I did start to see people," Schuck said. "I saw people still there, and it really overwhelmed me. It was just a situation where I knew there were people there, and just I'm thankful it was me."
The Florida Highway Patrol says it arrested the driver after determining she was impaired.
"Six hours after the incident occurred, after being released from the hospital, we arrested her, took her to the Manatee County jail, and she gave a breath test thereof .09. Six hours later," Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Gaskins said.
James Judge was the last person to leave the Skyway 10K start line, just minutes before the crash occurred.
"At that point, there was still probably a couple of thousand people on the bridge," said Judge, a spokesperson for the Skyway 10K. "The only thing that was in between me and that person was (Schuck)."
Schuck has been recovering at home and said she intends to return to full duty.
"I was sworn to protect, and that's what I felt I did," Schuck said. "I feel that what I did, I had to do. I didn't want to do, but I had to do it."
This story was originally published by Mary O'Connell on Scripps station WFTS in Tampa, Florida.