State trooper receiving care for ‘severe’ traumatic brain injury from March crash

By ALAN J. KEAYS

VtDigger

Published: 05-22-2024 2:56 PM

A Vermont State Police trooper seriously injured in March when his cruiser slammed into a fire truck that had stopped at a crash scene is undergoing treatment for a “severe traumatic brain injury.”

Mike O’Neil, executive director of the Vermont Troopers’ Association, provided an update on Cpl. Eric Vitali’s condition in a statement issued late last week. O’Neil said he did so at the request of the trooper’s wife, Heather Vitali. 

“Eric has transitioned to a rehabilitation facility where he is undergoing extensive cognitive and physical therapy for a severe traumatic brain injury,” O’Neil wrote in the statement. 

“Heather has shared that Eric is making progress but cautioned that this will be an incredibly long road for Eric, and it remains uncertain to what extent his recovery will progress,” O’Neil added. 

Vitali, a 19-year state police veteran, was airlifted to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in  Lebanon, New Hampshire following the crash, which took place on the morning of March 8 in the northbound lanes of I-89 near the Bethel exit, according to state police. 

The trooper was wearing a seat belt and driving in the passing lane when he struck the rear of an unoccupied Bethel Volunteer Fire Department tanker truck, according to a state police press release issued on the day of the crash.

The truck, according to the release, was parked on the interstate to provide scene protection for a crash that took place about an hour earlier.

“The force of the impact between the cruiser and the fire truck was significant and indicates the cruiser was traveling at highway speeds when the crash occurred,” the release stated. 

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Vermont State Police said the investigation remains ongoing. 

VTDigger submitted a public records request to the Vermont Department of Public Safety seeking information related to the crash. On Monday, the department invoked an exemption to reject the request.

Sam Weaver, public records act specialist for the public safety department, cited an exemption in the Vermont Public Records Act for records related to an ongoing investigation. 

“Because the records relate to an ongoing crash investigation, the department consulted with the Vermont State Police investigators,” Weaver wrote. 

“According to investigators, release of the requested records at this time could interfere with the ongoing investigation,” Weaver added. “In order to avoid interference with the ongoing investigation, the Department concludes that the records are exempt from public inspection and copying at this time.”