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In 2015, Colorado State Patrol Trooper Jaimie Jursevics was hit and killed by a drunk driver while she directed traffic at an accident on Interstate 25 near Castle Rock.
In 2016, a passing trucker hit and killed Trooper Cody Donahue while he investigated a crash, also on I-25 near Castle Rock.
On April 5, officials from the Colorado Department of Transportation, the Colorado State Patrol and Douglas County held a ribbon cutting and grand opening for a new Traffic Incident Management training center, a facility that aims to help emergency responders work crash scenes more safely and efficiently. CDOT hopes agencies throughout the state come to the center to train.
Members of Jursevics' and Donahue's family attended the event.
“When events like this happen it just warms my heart,” said Velma Donahue, Cody Donahue's wife. “To remember that people are still here and care.”
The center, which cost $1.5 million to build, is located in Douglas County, west of U.S. Highway 85 near Louviers.
Officials hailed the project as one that would increase safety for emergency responders and the public alike.
“I'm very proud that CDOT was a partner in this, that we were able to find the resources,” said CDOT Executive Director Michael Lewis. “But it's not about CDOT. It's about all of us.”
Ryan Rice, director of operations for CDOT, said the center is the second of its kind in the nation and the first in Colorado.
Traffic Incident Management, or TIM, is a training program developed through the Strategic Highway Research Program and run through the National Highway Institute, the educational arm of the Federal Highway Administration.
CDOT searched for nearly two years for a location where it could build a TIM center in Colorado, Rice said.
When CDOT officials heard last year that Douglas County planned to construct an Emergency Vehicle Operation Center for law enforcement and youth driver training, they approached the county about partnering with CDOT and the Colorado State Patrol on a TIM project.
Douglas County had the land. CDOT had the $1.5 million needed for construction. From there, the project came together “very quickly,” Rice said.
“That was probably the tip of the success right there,” Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said April 5, commending the role of public and private partnerships in bringing such projects to fruition. The EVOC center was constructed in part through a $3.3 million donation from Dave and Gail Liniger, Douglas County residents and founders of the real estate company RE/MAX.
Now complete, the TIM track sits on a 2.7-acre corner of the county's EVOC site. Stretching 1,100 feet in length and 80 feet in width, with guard rails and true-to-life paint, the TIM track is a replica of Colorado interstate.
Before authorities constructed the TIM site, they administered training through a four-hour course, sometimes online but typically in a classroom setting.
What those classes lacked was a real-world application, Rice said, a sentiment echoed by numerous officers who have undergone the training.
At the grand opening, a staged multi-car pileup complete with a vehicle on its side showcased the environment crews will train in starting this spring.
“This has been a big component that we've been missing,” Rice said, “this on-the-road, practical, live training. Classroom training is an important part of it but if you're not having that live training you are really limited.”
TIM teaches first responders from multiple disciplines — law enforcement, fire, medical and CDOT personnel — how to work cohesively to clear a crash.
“To really achieve the level of safety that we want for the public,” Rice said, “we really have to have a team that's out there operating like a NASCAR pit crew.”
Drills will include the correct positioning of emergency vehicles, how to push or tow crashed vehicles without damaging the roadway and tactics for emergency responders to avoid exposing themselves to traffic hazards while working a scene.
“We want to be able to play rough on our training track,” Rice said. “We want to be able to drag a semi off if we need to, or flip vehicles.”
The training is critical for the public's safety as well, Rice said, not just for first responders. For every minute a lane remains closed, the chance of a second crash goes up 2.8 percent, and for every minute first responders work on scene, four minutes of traffic delays accrue.
Rice said the national goal is to reach 1 million first responders trained in the program.
In 2013, about 7 percent of Colorado's first responders were TIM trained, Rice said. Today that statistic is closer to 37 percent. Sgt. Chris Washburn with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said 100 percent of the agency's patrol officers are TIM trained.
Following the ribbon cutting, Jursevics' husband, D.J. Jursevics, called the dedication “a good thing.”
“It's an awesome facility,” he said.
Velma Donahue, and her two daughters, Maya, 8, and Leila, 11, stood nearby accepting condolences from those in attendance. Maya proudly held a copy of the road sign dedicating the TIM site to Jursevics and her father. Leila held a portion of the ribbon from the ribbon cutting.
In Velma's home office is a wall with flags and other gifts commemorating her late husband. They thought that might be the best place for the newest memorabilia.
The hardest question they receive is always, “How is the family doing,” Velma said.
With a big smile, she described her late husband as kind, honest, brave and a kid at heart. They miss him every day.
Events like the TIM grand opening can be difficult because they remind her of him, she said, but she felt the training center was a promising sign Colorado law enforcement agencies are supported.
“It's amazing,” she said. “the fact that any agency can come here and get the training they need.”
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