Veteran fighting for his family after losing leg in crash that killed Knightdale officer
Posted November 24, 2021 4:28 p.m. EST
Updated November 24, 2021 5:36 p.m. EST
Knightdale, N.C. — It was a crash that killed a police officer, injured another one, and severely disabled another man.
Mike Melugin lost his leg in the crash and is keeping a brave face for loved ones in spite of the crushing adversity.
Melugin has little memory of what happened the night of Oct. 17, when a car slammed into him and two Knightdale police officers on I-540.
"The other driver took that exit and, um, just didn't slow down and just kind of plowed into the back of them," Melugin said.
Melugin was on the side of the interstate waiting for a tow truck after a minor crash. He was pinned between an SUV and the guardrail and lost his left leg when the car hit him. Melugin was waiting for his brother to come pick him up and speaking with officer Ryan Hayworth when they were all hit.
"That whole first day, I didn't even notice that I had a leg missing," Melugin said.
Melugin is a disabled veteran who spent 10 years in the Army. He's spent six weeks in the hospital and is currently at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, where doctors are fighting to save his right leg.
"There's, um, stitches everywhere," Melugin said. "There's very massive open wounds."
But his own recovery is not his primary concern. Melugin was devastated to learn Hayworth, a fellow veteran, was killed.
Melugin, a husband and father with three children who lives in Cary, said that despite his injuries, he will persevere for his family. He's keeping a positive outlook despite the massive hardship.
"Honestly, with the injuries I sustained, I really kind of feel like I shouldn't be here," Melugin said. "So, I'm pretty lucky."
"If I let myself give up or buckle under that, Then what am I saying to my kids with that?"
The driver who hit Melugin and the officers faces seven charges including driving while impaired and felony death by vehicle. He's due back in court next month.
"I'm going to be OK," said Melugin, who hopes to be home by Christmas. "I have a little less leg now. That's not a big deal."
The other officer who was injured, Cody Hagler, is home from the hospital, but still has more surgeries ahead in his recovery process.
Melugin's friends and family are raising money to help Melugin’s family with medical bills.