TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Toni Schuck – a Florida Highway Patrol trooper lauded as a hero after she crashed into a drunk driver barreling towards the finish line during a race on the Skyway Bridge – was honored with the “Back the Blue” award at the Fox Nation Patriot Awards on Friday.
The 26-year law enforcement veteran was the “last line of defense” before the finish line, where thousands of Armed Forces Skyway 10K Race runners gathered after crossing the bridge. She heard a radio transmission saying a driver – later identified as Kristen Kay Watts, 52, of Sarasota – slammed through the detour barricades and was heading her direction at about 100 mph.
“I was the last officer, I knew that, I knew it was me,” Schuck said at a news conference after the March 6 crash. “If it wasn’t me to get her to stop, then who?”
In an interview with Fox News on Friday, Schuck said she’s still dealing with the effects of the crash months later. She has been in physical therapy since March, which will continue “for the foreseeable future”.
In a video that aired during the ceremony, she said she’s carried her grandmother’s bible with her on the job, every day for her 26-year career, and believes it helped her survive the high-speed crash.
“I believe there had to be someone riding with me,” she said, tearing up. “I think I had a guardian angel.”
While accepting the award, Trooper Schuck described how March 6 started out like any morning shift. She was gearing up to go home when she was thrust into a terrifying situation, with just two minutes elapsing between the driver breaking through the barricades and crashing into Schuck’s patrol car.
“That’s what law enforcement gets. We get those split-second decisions,” Schuck said. “And then the audience that gets to review our videos have a lifetime to criticize us.”
“What they don’t see is that we’re human and we want to do a job,” she continued. “That job is to protect our community and that’s what I felt I did that day.”
She thanked Floridians and people across the country for the outpouring of support she received after the crash, especially from runners’ groups and other officers who were involved in crashes on the job.
Now that Trooper Schuck is back on the job, she told Fox News she hopes to inspire other women to pursue a career in law enforcement.
“If I can inspire one young woman … I’m hoping the next generation of law enforcement will include a lot more females,” she said.