SANTA ROSA, N.M. (KRQE) – A New Mexico State Police officer had his first day back on the job Thursday after an SUV crashed into his patrol unit on a snowy highway, sending him to the hospital two weeks ago. Officer Mike Wheeler is hoping his story reminds people to slow down during winter weather.
“I thought I was dreaming,” he said. “I don’t remember any of this. How did I get here?”
Officer Wheeler found himself in the hospital in Santa Rosa with no memory of how he got there. The last thing he knew, he was working on a very snowy night.
“The last text I sent my other-half was, ‘Can’t wait to get home. I don’t know what tonight’s going to bring other than snow and more snow,’” Wheeler said.
“I was on a motorist assist as somebody had run off into the median in the snow and, I was parked on the shoulder, waiting with my lights on for a wrecker,” Wheeler said.
That is when an SUV slammed into the back of his car at 52 mph, sending it flying into an embankment.
He had a broken nose, a gash on his head and a severe concussion. Yet, witnesses said, he got out of his car and got to work.
“Got that driver’s license and just commenced working the wreck not knowing anything about it,” he said.
Officer Wheeler’s captain told him what happened in the hospital the next morning.
“He said I was involved in a crash. Of course, now my concern was, did I hurt somebody? Did I kill somebody?” Wheeler said. “They said, ‘No, they hit you.’ I said, ‘Are you sure?’ I must have asked him 50 times if it was my fault and if the other people are okay.”
Officer Wheeler got a new patrol vehicle on Thursday, and he said he is ready to get back to work.
“I don’t hesitate doing the job, and I don’t think any police officer does,” he said.
Still, reflecting back on it, he does admit: “Looking at the blood stains and all those things, it really makes you think, ‘Gosh, I was lucky,’” Wheeler said.
The people in the car that hit the officer were okay.
The driver was cited with reckless driving.