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Late State Trooper From Newtown Memorialized



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Late State Trooper From Newtown Memorialized

By Nancy K. Crevier

Tom Carney was not yet 18 years old when his father, a Connecticut State Trooper with Troop L in Litchfield, was struck and killed by a tractor trailer December 6, 1982, while standing on the shoulder of I-84 in Southbury with a stopped motorist. Lt Thomas Carney was the Commanding Officer of Troop L at the time of his death, and a Newtown resident.

His son recalled Lt Carney’s funeral as “one of the largest Newtown has ever seen,” and it was at his father’s funeral that he was befriended by Newtown Auxiliary Police Officer Adrian Stroud, one of the officers directing traffic. Now a retired officer from the Ridgefield and Middletown police forces, Mr Stroud became a lifelong friend of the family, said Mr Carney, even planting a tree in the Carney family’s yard in memory of Lt Carney in 1983.

This fall, Mr Stroud has been instrumental in procuring a more public tribute to the fallen Lt Carney, said the trooper’s son. On September 24, a plaque honoring Lt Thomas Carney was posted, and the westbound portion of the bridge on I-84 between Newtown and Southbury has been named in honor of the state trooper. While known locally as the Rochambeau Bridge, according to DOT officials, prior to Thursday, September 24, the westbound bridge was unnamed.

The family had talked for years about doing something lasting to memorialize Lt Carney, said his son, but it was not until he mentioned this past spring to Mr Stroud that he wanted to see something named after his father that the ball got rolling.

“Adrian heard what I said and just ran with it,” said Mr Carney.

His friend’s request was just the impetus to get him to fiercely latch onto the idea of a memorial that he himself had pondered before, said Mr Stroud, now a Middletown area resident. “Over a year and a half ago, my wife and I were driving over the bridge on 84 in Newtown and I said to her how I always think of Lt Carney when I am on 84. [Lt Carney] did a lot for the community of Newtown when he lived there, and I was surprised that nothing had been named for him in Newtown or anywhere,” he said.

Once he decided to follow through on getting a portion of I-84 named for Lt Carney, he pursued it with tenacity. He had dealt with having a local road renamed for a fallen comrade before, but it was his first effort in having a state road renamed, Mr Stroud said, but he was undaunted by any red tape. “I’m pretty passionate once I get set on doing something,” he said. Once he found the right Department of Transportation (DOT) contact, he was told that he would have to get legislators to introduce a bill to name a bridge or road after Lt Carney.

The tragedy behind Lt Carney’s death was such that Mr Stroud felt even more compelled to see that the state trooper was memorialized. When the accident occurred, Lt Carney was on his way home from Troop L, and assisting a motorist. It is believed that the trucker who struck Lt Carney was engaged in a practice known as “dusting,” in which a trucker attempts to come as close as possible to a trooper on the edge of a road and see if the truck’s wind will knock off the trooper’s hat.

Lt Carney was hit so hard by the swing of the trailer, said former officer Stroud, that a perfect imprint of the trooper — including his state police badge — was pressed into the dirt on the truck’s trailer. “Dusting” was never proven, but the trucker was arrested for negligent homicide and served a minimal amount of time, Mr Stroud said. The imprinted trailer section is preserved and on display at the police academy in Meriden. “It’s absolutely chilling,” said Mr Stroud.

“The person who was absolutely diligent in helping me every step of the way, every day via email and phone, was C.J. Strand, who is clerk of the Transportation Committee at the Legislative Office Building,” Mr Stroud said. “He was awesome and made it all happen.” He also had great praise for State Representative Tony Guerrera, who helped him get Lt Carney’s name on a general bill that happened to be in progress at the time. “My timing was good, but I spent a lot of time, every day, calling people and emailing. I had to stay on top of it. I can be a real pain when I want something done,” laughed Mr Stroud.

All in all, with assistance from DOT personnel Patty Stewart and Kevin Nursick, from the time he sent in his first request letter to the time the plaque was erected, only four months passed. “It was pretty smooth,” said Mr Stroud.

Mr Carney and Mr Stroud had hoped to have the section of road near Exit 15, where Lt Carney died, named for him, but that section of road had already been taken.

The family is pleased, however, said Mr Carney, to have the memorial plaque on the Newtown border, the town where his father was well-known and well-respected, and where his mother continues to live.

Returning from a visit with Mr Stroud in Middletown Sunday evening, September 27, Mr Carney first saw the plaque honoring Lt Carney as he drove over the bridge. “I was happy, and I was proud, and very grateful to Adrian,” Mr Carney said.

“I was just thrilled when I drove over the bridge on Monday, to see [the plaque],” Mr Stroud said.

The Strouds and Carney family will gather at some time in the near future to celebrate the placement of the plaque, said Mr Carney. “It has been a long time coming,” Mr Carney added.

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