PARLEYS CANYON — As trooper Riley Rugg watched the truck roll over the top of his car, time seemed, for a moment, to slow down.

"Honestly, when it happened, I couldn't believe it was happening," Rugg recalled Monday, less than 24 hours after his Utah Highway Patrol car was crushed in Lambs Canyon.

Rugg and two other people were involved in the crash the previous evening, which happened while the trooper was stopped on I-80, investigating an earlier crash. He was parked in the westbound left-hand lane at about 7:30 p.m. when a truck hauling a trailer crashed into his car, sending it rolling over the top of it.

The trooper wasn’t in the car at the time, but a person involved in the earlier crash was. That person had to be cut from the vehicle after the crash and suffered non-life threatening injuries.

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper and two other people were injured in a crash on I-80 near Lambs Canyon while the trooper was investigating another crash on Sunday, July 7, 2019.
A Utah Highway Patrol trooper and two other people were injured in a crash on I-80 near Lambs Canyon while the trooper was investigating another crash on Sunday, July 7, 2019. | Utah Highway Patrol

The woman driving the truck was ejected and flown to an area hospital in critical condition.

"The first thing on my mind when the crash happened was to make sure everybody was alright," Rugg said.

Rugg was also taken to the hospital to be evaluated for injuries. But the day after the crash, the 22-year-old trooper returned to work. He’d slept fine the previous night, he said, and it felt "good" to be back on the job.

Rugg had only been on the force for nine months before the crash. Before joining Utah Highway Patrol, he'd served in the Marine Corps — training that he said served him well in handling the incident Sunday evening.

"When the crash occurred I had a lot of adrenaline going," Rugg said, "but I tried to stay calm and breathe and make sure that I was doing my job to keep everybody else on the scene safe."

Mere seconds before the crash, Rugg and a tow truck driver had been standing in the exact spot the truck hit. He described their lack of injuries as a "miracle."

"Just a mile-an-hour or two difference in speed could have made a difference," Rugg said.