July 29, 2005 is a day Avon Police officer Sue Kassey will never forget.
“I remember my sergeant running up to me and saying grab your gear, it's bad," said Kassey.
In two days, it will mark 10 years since one of the worst accidents in Connecticut history, the devastating Avon Mountain Crash, which killed five people and injured countless others. Kassey was one of five Avon Police officers on duty that morning, when the call came in around 7:30 a.m. The driver of a dump truck had lost control of his brakes on Route 44.
The 70,000 pound vehicle careened down Avon Mountain before slamming into a sea of cars waiting at the stoplight during the busy morning commute. Kassey remember the event being the worst accident she had ever seen.
"As an officer, you see a lot...how does this accident compare to other events you've seen? This is the worst. It was like our own mini 9/11 in Avon at that time," Kassey said.
Her instincts and training immediately kicked in and Kassey helped many of the victims until paramedics arrived on the scene. Despite the heroic efforts of so many first responders such as Kassey and countless citizens, four people died that day. Many others were severely injured.
The dump truck that caused the fiery crash had a history of safety violations, and should have never been on the road that day. The impact devastated the Greater Hartford community, and changed numerous lives, including Kassey’s. The first responder has made it her mission to save lives and prevent something so horrific from ever happening again.
Just months after the tragedy, she was the first woman in the state to become certified to perform commercial vehicle inspections. Kassey is just one of about six law enforcement officers in the entire state, and the only one on the Avon Police Force. She feels that through inspections, she can keep those on the road safe.
“Doing truck inspections means I can probably save someone’s life. It could be a truck drivers life...it could someone on the road...someone's mom, dad, sister, brother," said Kassey.
Since 2006, Kassey has issued hundreds of tickets, and taken more than one-thousand trucks off the road. She says one out of every two commercial vehicles she inspects needs to be put out of service.
“That's why I'm out there in the heat. I'm out there in the rain. I'm out there in the snow. I know there is something out there that doesn't belong in the road," Kassey said.
While the pain and horror of that summer day will never be erased from her memory, Kassey finds solace in the fact that while she can’t change what happened, she can change the present and the future.
“Something good actually came out of something bad,” said Kassey.
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