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Trooper's Death During Blizzard Fuels Growing Concerns Over First Responder Safety

Matt Bloom
Flowers and handwritten thank-you notes adorn a Colorado State Patrol car outside the agency’s Greeley offices. The memorial was assembled prior to CSP trooper Dan Groves' funeral Thursday.";

Colorado State Patrol troopers will bury one of their own today — a corporal who was struck by a car while helping a stranded driver during last week's historic blizzard.

Funeral services for Corporal Dan Groves are at 10 a.m. this morning. They include a 7-mile procession beginning in Mead and ending at the trooper's church in Longmont.

Groves was an 11-year member of the force based out of the agency's Greeley office. Sgt. Philip Gurley, Groves' superior, said he was a model trooper.

"He really took safety on the roadway very seriously," Gurley said. "So, I think this hits all of us very closely because if it can happen to him, we know that it could happen to any one of us."

The ceremony comes as law enforcement agencies grapple with the growing difficulty of conducting traffic stops on Colorado's increasingly busy roadways.

The number of traffic accidents remains fairly constant each year — but the number of fatal collisions involving officers keeps going up, said Sam Cole, communications manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation's traffic safety unit.

"More people are moving to Colorado," he said. "Our economy's booming and there are more people using our roadways, so there's more congestion. That's why we need to keep our first responders safe."

There's actually a state law requiring just that. It's called the Move Over Law, and it's been around since 2005.

Credit Colorado Dept. of Transportation
Colorado Dept. of Transportation

Two years ago , then-governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill increasing fines and the maximum jail time for offenders, after another CSP trooper, Cody Donahue, was killed during a traffic stop.

But most people still aren't aware of the law, Cole said.

"So, that's why we are taking to social media and our digital message boards that are on our roadways to help increase awareness at the law and order to protect troopers as they work on the side of the road," he said.

The Colorado State Patrol will also increase its ongoing efforts to enforce the law following last week's blizzard and the death of Corporal Dan Groves, said CSP spokesman Matthew Secor.

"We're not going to become complacent as an agency," he said. "We're going to continue to move forward."

Secor said about 800 active CSP troopers have received second or third rounds of roadside safety trainings since 2012. Even more advanced training is being offered to troopers and cadets this year as well, he added.

"We're a big agency so these things take time," he said. "But, we've done pretty much top to bottom integration of traffic incident management within the agency."

Dan Groves
Credit Colorado State Patrol
Colorado State Patrol
Corporal Dan Groves was an 11-year member of the Colorado State Patrol.

Sgt. Philip Gurley said he wishes more people would heed travel warnings — especially during severe weather events.

"I mean, most of us have sustained injuries," he said. " Dan is my third friend and coworker that I've lost in my 15 year career with the state patrol."

Gurley said he and other troopers in Greeley were going through the agency's new roadside safety program before the accident.

"You feel like you're standing down range on a gun range where these bullets are flying by your head because any one of those cars..." he said, not finishing his sentence. "It doesn't matter if you're wearing your safety vest or your bulletproof vest or even if you're in your car, sometimes the danger is so severe."

Expect traffic delays Thursday along Highway 66 in Longmont. The procession for Groves will travel from the I-25 exit west for seven miles.

All north-south intersections along the route will be closed from 8 to 9:30 a.m., according to the city of Longmont.

An investigation of the accident is ongoing.

Road closure map

I cover a wide range of issues within Colorado’s dynamic economy including energy, labor, housing, beer, marijuana, elections and other general assignment stories.
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