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Trooper struck by drunk driver recalls brush with death

Trooper Mac Mickens thought he was dead a year and a half ago as he watched a drunk driver come at him as he stood on the shoulder of Florida’s Turnpike

By Jorge Milian
Palm Beach Post

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Mac Mickens thought he was dead a year and a half ago as he watched a vehicle driven by a drunken driver bear down on him as he stood on the shoulder of Florida’s Turnpike in Palm Beach Gardens during a traffic stop.

“I’m walking back to my car and all of a sudden I see lights coming right at me,” Mickens, 61, said Wednesday. “I threw my hands in the air and said, ‘This is it.’”

Mickens, a 30-year FHP veteran, was relatively lucky. He sustained serious injuries, including to his pelvis and right knee and missed 11 months of work, but he’s still around to talk about his death-defying experience.

On Wednesday, Mickens recounted the incident publicly for the first time during an event to increase public awareness of the state’s Move Over law, which stipulates that motorists must slow down or move over a lane when approaching stationary emergency vehicles on the roadway.

According to state officials, crashes where a driver violated the Move Over law have increased 50 percent since 2013. Palm Beach County ranks second in the state in such crashes behind Broward County.

A video that shows the Oct. 18, 2015, incident involving Mickens is part of a public-service campaign by the FHP.

It’s hard to watch.

The video, taken from an in-dash camera inside Mickens’ patrol vehicle, shows the driver of an SUV plowing into the rear of a car stopped for speeding just after striking Mickens. After a few minutes, Mickens can be seen struggling to get up from the road to use his radio.

Mickens said he’s been advised by a mental-health professional to watch the video, but has yet to do so.

“I give thanks to a higher power because that’s the only reason I’m here,” said Mickens, a Port St. Lucie resident. “I was surprised that I woke up.”

Rubelsy Cano-Castillo, 26, was convicted of DUI causing serious bodily injury and was sentenced on Oct. 16 to five years in prison. Cano-Castillo is incarcerated at the Calhoun Correctional Institution near Tallahassee and will be held upon release in November 2020 by U.S. immigration authorities for deportation proceedings, records show.

A toxicology report revealed Cano-Castillo’s blood alcohol at .181 and .182, more than twice the legal limit.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 204 crashes this past year were caused by drivers not obeying the Move Over law — a 36 percent increase from 2015, the state said.

Palm Beach County saw six Move Over-related crashes in 2016, with 10 injuries.

One of those crashes involved FHP trooper Robert Sayih, who was injured Sept. 3 on Interstate 95 in Boynton Beach by an alleged drunken driver. Andrew Stephen Boisvert of Riviera Beach, has pleaded not guilty to DUI causing injury, DUI causing property damage and careless driving.

Motorists who don’t move over and are ticketed by law enforcement face a fine of $166 in Palm Beach County.

“I tell people, ‘If you don’t believe that it’s important to move over, Google my name,’” said Mickens, a grandfather.

The impact of being struck hurled Mickens’ body into the air and onto the pavement in front of his patrol car. After being knocked out briefly, Mickens can be seen on the video using the car’s hood to raise himself and radio for help. Cano-Castillo never came to the deputy’s assistance.

Mickens, who returned to work Sept. 29, said a saying he heard often at the police academy kept running through his head after he was hit: “As long as you’re moving, you’re not dead.”

Copyright 2017 Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)