A bicyclist suffered a serious injury after being hit by a New London police cruiser Sunday afternoon, according to Connecticut State Police.
State police confirmed the accident happened on Hempstead Street near the intersection of Thompson Court shortly before 4 p.m. Investigators said that the cruiser was traveling north on Hempstead Street while the bicycle was traveling south. Troopers described a curb on both sides of the road and said the two collided on the northbound side.
The bicyclist, identified as 41-year-old Christopher Petteway of New London, was taken to L&M Hospital with life-threatening injuries and later airlifted to Yale-New Haven Hospital. As of Monday afternoon, he is listed in “good” condition, officials said.
State police have identified the officer involved as Jeffrey Nichols, 35, of New London. Nichols was responding to a domestic disturbance at the time of the crash, according to state police.
New London Police Department Acting Chief Peter Reichard said Nichols and witnesses reported that the emergency lights to the officer's cruiser were activated at the time of the crash. Investigators have downloaded the cruiser camera data for analysis.
The police cruiser had to be towed from the scene because of extensive windshield damage, in addition to the turn signal and left headlight damage.
Reichard said that Nichols, a K-9 officer, has been with the department since 2007 and is currently on paid injury leave, at a doctor’s orders. Nichols will return to duty when cleared by a doctor, Reichard said.
Petteway is living at his friend Robert Parise’s house, just a few blocks from where the accident happened. He said Petteway would bike on Hempstead Street all the time.
Parise described his friend as a hard-worker, someone putting his life back on track and about to start two new jobs.
The friends planned to grab ice cream Sunday night, but Petteway never returned home. Parise said he then got the call from the hospital.
"It’s just going to be a long road, a tough road, for someone who worked very hard to get where he is," Parise said, adding that he spoke with Petteway Monday afternoon.
Parise said Petteway is expected to survive, but the recovery will not be easy. He added that his friend is in good spirits.
“His legs, his hands, he might need some plastic surgery, he was going in for more surgery (Monday),” Petteway said.
Bike New London Chairman Robert Bareiss could see the accident from his window. He said when it comes to Hempstead Street, a bicycle-related crash unfortunately doesn’t surprise him.
“Between vehicles that are speeding and bicyclists who are riding improperly, the formula is there for more accidents like this to happen,” Bareiss said.
Because of the seriousness of the crash, New London police contacted the New London State's Attorney's Office, which called in Connecticut State Police to investigate the incident. Anyone who witnessed the crash or the moments leading up to it is asked to contact TFC John Wilson at (203) 630-8085.