Cary officer nearly killed in motorcycle wreck returns to duty
Posted March 27, 2012 4:53 p.m. EDT
Updated March 27, 2012 6:59 p.m. EDT
Cary, N.C. — A motorcycle officer for the Cary Police Department was back on the job Tuesday after a serious collision with a pickup truck on N.C. Highway 55 nearly cost him his life last summer.
Senior Officer Chad Penland underwent extensive rehabilitation and physical therapy after the wreck caused him multiple broken bones and severe facial injuries, but he didn't hesitate before getting back on his motorcycle for patrol.
"(It) feels good to be back. It's been a long time. It's been a long road," he said.
On July 15, Penland was trying to make a traffic stop near Morrisville-Carpenter Road when a Dodge pickup truck made a left turn in front of his motorcycle. He struck the truck face-first and went flying through the air before landing hard on the road.
His partner, Senior Officer Keith Perkins, said Penland didn't think he was going to survive.
"He was asking if he was going to die. He kept telling us, 'Don't let me die. Don't let me die,'" Perkins said.
Penland, who said he doesn't remember anything about the crash, said he believes he would have died that day, if not for the quick-thinking kindness of a stranger. Jessica Elliott, a nurse from Lynchburg, Va., was at the intersection of N.C. 55 and Morrisville-Carpenter Road that afternoon.
She watched the wreck in horror, she told WRAL News in July.
"They told me, had she not been there, from the time of the accident until I died on the highway would have been less than three minutes," Penland said. "The injuries to my face were so extensive and severe that I would have drowned in my own blood."
Penland spent 12 days at Duke University Hospital; he was in a coma for four of them.
The pickup driver, who was not injured, was charged with failing to yield the right of way.
An off-duty paramedic and an off-duty firefighter also assisted Penland at the scene, but it's Elliott who has been credited with saving his life.
She was honored by the Cary Town Council in November, which was the first time Penland got the chance to publicly thank her. The two have become good friends.
"There was a picture taken at the Town of Cary recognition for her, and it's a picture of me with all her family," Penland said. "She put that picture on her Christmas card. That's pretty special, isn't it?"