A CHP officer on a traffic stop Sunday morning sustained two broken legs after he was struck by a vehicle driven by a woman leaving the Graton Resort & Casino.
The officer, Steven Rutledge, was stopped on northbound Highway 101 at Todd Road at 8 a.m. when a vehicle drifted onto the shoulder and struck him and his patrol car, authorities said.
Rutledge was standing on the passenger side of his patrol car, leaning into it to check something on his computer, when he and the car were hit, CHP spokesman Officer Jon Sloat said.
The vehicle's driver, Rachel Garris, 22, of Corning, had drifted so far onto the shoulder of the highway that the major impact to the patrol car was on the right side of the vehicle.
The impact threw him into the car and sent the patrol car from the shoulder of the highway into the middle lane of traffic.
Garris told investigators that she had just left the casino, where she had been with friends. It wasn't clear how long she had been there, Sloat said.
"We're working with the casino to establish a timeline for her," he said.
Alcohol or drugs have been ruled out as possible contributing factors, Sloat said. Investigators are looking into whether fatigue played a role.
After the patrol car was struck, gasoline immediately began to leak from it. The driver of the vehicle that Rutledge initially stopped was able to pull the unconscious officer from the patrol car.
"He thought the car was going to burst into flames," Sloat said.
Garris sustained minor injuries, and the man who pulled Rutledge from the patrol car was not injured.
Both Rutledge and Garris are being treated at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Rutledge was scheduled for afternoon surgery.
"He is doing good," Sloat said. "It's going to be a long recovery, but he'll be okay."
All northbound lanes were blocked for approximately 30 minutes, and traffic was rerouted onto Santa Rosa Avenue.
The fast lane was re-opened at approximately 8:30 a.m., but traffic flow remained constricted for hours as investigators examined the scene.
Rutledge, a Rohnert Park resident, moved to the North Bay a month ago after two years with the CHP in Los Angeles, Sloat said.
Staff Writer Jeremy Hay contributed to this report.
Copyright 2014 - The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, Calif.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service