WOODBURY — A veteran Connecticut State Police sergeant was killed Thursday after officials say his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters during Ida.
State police identified the trooper as Sgt. Brian Mohl, a 26-year veteran who was assigned to Troop L in Litchfield. Mohl was the agency’s 26th line-of-duty death.
Mohl was working a midnight shift when he notified Troop L that his vehicle was being swept away near Jacks Bridge in Woodbury around 3:30 a.m. Thursday, state police Col. Stavros Mellekas said Thursday afternoon.
“That was the last they heard of him,” Mellekas said. “They pinged his phone. We sent all assets right away with the fire departments, dive teams — everything you could imagine.”
Mellekas said once daybreak came and the water receded, first responders were able to locate Mohl’s vehicle “mostly submerged” in the river.
Mohl was located in the river about an hour later, according to Mellekas, who declined to say how far the sergeant was located from his vehicle, citing the ongoing investigation. Mohl was brought to shore on Riverbend Drive, Mellekas said.
First responders performed life-saving measures before the trooper was flown to Yale New Haven Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Mellekas said.
“It’s just a tragedy,” Mellekas added.
Trooper First Class Pedro Muniz said it’s a tough time for the sergeant’s family and Connecticut State Police.
“We just ask that everybody keep us and the family in their thoughts and their prayers as we endure this tough time right now,” Muniz said.
U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., and Gov. Ned Lamont also expressed their condolences at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
“I was telling everybody ‘stay safe, stay home, let’s ride out this storm.’ That’s not what you do as a trooper,” Lamont said. “As a trooper, you go out and you look and you try to rescue others — take care of them.”
Woodbury Fire Chief Janet Morgan said her agency was notified a little after 3:30 a.m. Thursday about a vehicle being swept down river with an occupant inside.
“We didn’t know it was a state trooper at the time,” she said.
She said the area is prone to flooding. “We were used to the swift water in that area and we knew what resources to immediately call in to assist,” she said.
Nine fire departments responded to the scene, along with six boats and three helicopters.
“We completed our task and our thoughts and prayers are with the officer,” Morgan said.
Around 30 state police vehicles could be seen Thursday morning between River Bend Drive and Westside Road in Woodbury. The road was blocked off with state police standing at the entrance to the dead-end road.
Morgan said the area where the incident occurred in the small rural community was a back road with no streetlights and the trooper may have come upon the water without realizing it.
“It is known for rapid waters and flooding in that area,” the fire chief said.
The bridge spans the Pomperaug River, according to Morgan. Overnight the river reached 6 feet over flood stage “so that area was under water,” she said.
It was not immediately clear if signs or other road blocks had been put up warning of the flooding. Morgan said the town has 47 known locations where flooding can occur.
“We had people out in the area knowing where the floods were and recording that to the (police department),” Morgan said.
“The trooper may just not have known,” she added, describing the waters as “quick rising.”
“Up until midnight, we didn’t have any flooding, and then it just took off,” she added.
Connecticut State Police suffered the death of a trooper exactly 11 years ago. Connecticut State Police said Trooper Kenneth Hall was conducting a traffic stop on Interstate 91 on Sept. 2, 2010 when his car was struck by a driver under the influence of prescription and illegal drugs. Hall sustained multiple injuries and was later pronounced dead.
Staff writers Serenity Bishop, Ken Dixon and Liz Hardaway contributed reporting.