In the early hours of April 10, many lives were changed when a truck crashed into a tree on Route 83 in Ellington, and severely injuring two of his friends.
It was the quick actions of a Connecticut State Trooper that prevented further loss of life, according to Rotary Club of Rockville members. For these reasons, and many others, club members named Trooper Joseph Strogoff the 2011 Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award.
Rotarian Dan Keune told the audience that literally seconds after the crash, Strogoff happened upon the scene and found a burning truck. Keune said Strogoff also found of the victims who had been following in another vehicle and who had already removed one person, Robert J. Dunn, from the truck. That’s where Strogoff stepped in to help, Keune said.
“Trooper Strogoff, with excellent training, did what needed to be done,” Keune said. “With no thought of himself, he pulled out the other two passengers. Thirty seconds later, the flames of the vehicle were as high as the telephone pole. There was no time to think, only to act. For two of the occupants of that Ford Ranger, Trooper Strogoff’s first minutes on the scene were the difference in praying for one’s soul and praying for one’s recovery. Clearly the world is a better place because of your actions.”
Dunn, 20, was pronounced dead at the scene. Kassandra King, 17, of East Windsor, and James F. McDermott, a 22-year-old Coventry man, were flown by helicopter to Hartford Hospital where they were treated and released after a few day stay. The two men who removed Dunn from the vehicle are Ellington residents Eric Dziadul and Justin Newton. Dziadul and Newton have previously said that they removed King from the vehicle and that Strogoff helped to remove McDermott. Neither Dziadul nor Newton attended the dinner.
Strogoff said that he was coming back from a 911 hang-up down the street and was on his way to the Stafford area to do another patrol check when he saw a car on fire on the left side of the road. He was in the right place at the right time and knew he had to act, he said.
“It would have been tough to watch people burn,” he said. “That’s what I was thinking. I couldn’t not do anything. It would have been worse to watch what would have happened if I didn’t do it. Psychologically, it would have been worse to watch people burn.”
Strogoff, who has only been on the force a little over a year, said that he had only been on the road for a short time when this accident happened.
With this award, $250 is donated to the charity of the recipient’s choice.
“He put some thought into it I’ve gotta tell you, I was quite impressed,” Keune said. “He has chosen the Vernon chapter of S.A.D.D. which is Students Against Drunk Driving.”
After the presentation, a member of the audience added another $100 to the contribution, making it a $350 donation to S.A.D.D.
Strogoff said he chose this charity with the circumstances of the accident in mind and because of the general problem of underage drinking. Friends of Dunn’s said the group had been drinking prior to the accident.
“Hopefully a lesson has been learned and it’s as good a charity as any because it can maybe help prevent future accidents,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman was also on hand to present Strogoff with a proclamation from the governor.
“I’d like to give a special congratulations to Trooper Strogoff,” she said. “Thank you. I can’t thank you enough for what you do. You truly did an incredible act of bravery. We are so fortunate in this state to have the kind of men and women that choose to be our state troopers. The safety of our communities is in their hands all the time. So I want to personally thank you – and coming from Troop C where I’m a little biased since I live in Tolland – thank you for all that you’ve done for all of us. You are truly our hero. Keep up the good work and God bless you.”
Strogoff, humbled, thanked Rockville Rotary for recognizing him.
“We don’t always get the best publicity, and I’d like to thank Rockville Rotary and Dan specifically for taking the time to recognize what we do,” he said. “It’s really great to be here and I appreciate it. Thank you.”
The investigation into the crash is ongoing.