AKRON, Ohio — An Akron police officer, who is facing a long road to recovery, is speaking out about his close call with death and urging drivers to careful around emergency vehicles.
Ryan Hughes was among four police officers who were hurt when a speeding car slammed into a cruiser.
Hughes was the most seriously hurt and spent five days at Summa Akron City Hospital. Still, the three-year veteran of the department continues to count his blessings.
"I truly believe there was a guardian angel around all of us. I do." Hughes said. "I'm just glad to still be alive and I'm a fighter."
The officers were assisting a towing company with a disabled vehicle in the driveway of a home on Archwood Avenue around 3 a.m. on September 4.
The emergency overhead lights were activated on both cruisers, police said.
Hughes was standing outside of one of the cruisers when he heard a Hyundai Sonata "roaring down the road." Moments later, the car slammed into that police car, sending Hughes hurtling through the air.
"I just remember hearing the crash and then the motion of flying through the air," he said. "The sheer force -- because they said I was launched about 40 feet away from where I was standing."
The cruiser that was initially struck sustained heavy damage, crumpling the back end. Two officers who were inside the cruiser were also hurt, as was a fourth officer who was standing outside of it.
The crushed police car was pushed into a second cruiser, causing more damage. No one was inside the second cruiser.
Hughes was taken to the hospital in another cruiser after other officers responded to the scene.
He suffered road rash along with cuts around his chin and forehead. He also lost some of the bone on his left knee, and his right knee was shattered.
"They put pins and screws with some wires to reattach my knee together because it was completely broken in half," Hughes said.
The other officers were also treated at Summa Akron City Hospital and have returned to work, according to Lt. Michael Miller.
The 45-year-old driver remained in critical condition at Summa Akron City Hospital. Lt. Miller said speed was a factor and charges are pending.
Hughes, who is a married father, hopes people who see the pictures of bad wreckage are convinced to follow Ohio law and move over and slow down when stationary vehicles have their flashing lights activated on roadways.
"We all have families to go home to. It's not just police officers or firefighters. It's sheriff's (deputies). It's tow truck drivers," he said.
Hughes is planning to start physical therapy and realizes his recovery could last months.
In the meantime, he's grateful to the police department, which has started a meal train to help his family through the tough time.
Hughes said despite the terrifying ordeal, he will return to the job he loves.
"It's a passion in my heart and I will, as soon as I'm clear to go back and I'm physically able to do the job, I'll be back on the streets," he said.
To follow News 5's ongoing news coverage from the Akron area, bookmark this link.