By Tonya Alanez and Joe Cavaretta
POMPANO BEACH, Fla. — A work commute turned nearly fatal Wednesday when a sheriff's patrol car veered off Interstate 95 and struck a palm tree, leaving a deputy with critical brain injuries, officials said.
With family and co-workers keeping a vigil at his side Wednesday evening, Deputy Daniel Rivera remained in critical condition at Broward Health North, said Dani Moschella, an agency spokeswoman.
"He came through a five-hour surgery today, and he's still in critical condition," Moschella said. "All of BSO is waiting and hoping. Everyone is devastated."
The crash, which left Rivera's mangled patrol car wrapped around a palm tree, remains under investigation. It is too soon to confirm whether a wet roadway, speed, lighting or other conditions contributed to the crash, sheriff's officials said.
"It will be a lengthy and detailed and thorough investigation," Moschella said.
The single-car crash happened south of Copans Road as the 10-year veteran was headed to work at BSO's Pompano Beach district office. Rivera, 32, had intended to exit from southbound I-95 onto Atlantic Boulevard amid wet roadway conditions, Sheriff Scott Israel said.
"At this point, our accident investigators believe that the deputy began applying the brakes, lost control of his vehicle and went off the road," the sheriff said. "The passenger side of his vehicle struck a tree."
The first person to arrive at the crash site was a sheriff's training specialist who also was on his way to work. He reported the crash at 6:16 a.m. but it is unclear precisely what time it happened, Moschella said.
Another person, Victor McComb, who works at Gray Taxidermy near the crash site, had just arrived at work and was opening the gate to the business when emergency lights caught his eye.
When McComb moved closer, he saw the mangled patrol car and rescuers using a plastic sheet to lift the deputy onto a gurney.
"It was kind of wrapped around the tree. I didn't see him moving at all," McComb said. "They got him out of the car real quick and moved on."
While investigators worked the crash scene, all southbound I-95 lanes were closed to motorists for nearly three hours during the morning commute. Traffic backed up through Boca Raton.
Later Wednesday, about a dozen marked sheriff's patrol cars filled the emergency room parking lot at the hospital. Deputies streamed in and out of the hospital waiting room.
Rivera's parents flew from New York to be at their son's bedside, Moschella said. They, along with other family members, fellow deputies and co-workers kept the vigil at the hospital, Moschella said.
Rivera began working for the agency in March 2003 as a detention deputy. In May 2012, he transferred to the law enforcement department.
"He has very severe injuries. Nurses and doctors have told us he's in very critical condition," Israel said while Rivera was in surgery. "We ask for everyone's prayers and thoughts for him and his family, and the BSO family."
As part of the investigation that left Deputy Daniel Rivera critically injured, the Broward Sheriff's Office is "looking for witnesses to the crash," sheriff's spokeswoman Dani Moschella said.
Authorities ask anyone who witnessed the accident to contact investigators at 954-321-4840 or report anonymous tips to Broward.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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