MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) — Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Toni Schuck has been hailed a hero by many across Tampa Bay this week.
She put herself in harm’s way Sunday morning, using her vehicle to stop a drunk driver on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Her actions protected runners participating in a 10K race on the bridge.
“I was the last officer, I knew that, I knew it was me,” Schuck said at press conference Thursday morning. “If it wasn’t me to get her to stop, then who? I don’t know.”
On Monday afternoon, FHP released dash camera video from her patrol car showing the nearly head-on collision.
“The Florida Highway Patrol applauds the actions of Trooper Toni Schuck, a 26 year veteran of the Patrol who, as the last line of defense to the Skyway 10K runners, placed herself in harm’s way to protect others,” said a FHP spokesperson in a media release.
Trooper Schuck spoke for the first time since the crash Thursday morning, sharing her perspective of Sunday’s events.
“I honestly did not think it was going to end the way it did,” she said. “I thought she was going to stop.”
Troopers say 52-year-old Kristen Kay Watts was the woman behind the wheel of the vehicle that collided with Trooper Schuck. The Sarasota woman remains in the Manatee County Jail facing multiple DUI-related charges.
According to an arrest report, Watts had a blood alcohol concentration more than three times the legal limit when she was being treated at the hospital. The report says her BAC was still over the legal limit when authorities took a breath sample at the jail six hours after the Sunday morning crash.
Runners who participated in the bridge race are crediting Trooper Schuck for saving countless lives.
“Watching her dash cam footage, really put things into perspective. I can speak for several runners when I say that her heroic actions are past heroic. If you will, I will call her a super-woman because many people would have run from the danger and she faced it head-on to save thousands of people,” said race participant Mariah Mullen.
Mullen, who participated in the Skyway 10K for the first time Sunday wants give her thanks to Trooper Schuck.
“All my prayers and get well wishes are with you and thank you is just so small for your heroic action. Know what you did ma’am is well and beyond your call of duty and it is more than greatly appreciated,” Mullen said.
She’s not the only one thanking Trooper Schuck, who said she’s heard from hundreds of peoples.
“We’ve had flowers sent to the stations from runners, all across the community, all across the state,” she said. “I’ve heard from people from Washington state, Indiana, New Hampshire, Texas, all over.”
It’s support she said she greatly appreciates while she recovers from the incident. She plans on returning to the job at some point.
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“I was sworn to protect and that’s what I felt I did,” she said. “Hero, that’s just a title.”