A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper has been presented with the Purple Heart after suffering broken ribs and other injuries in a serious crash on U.S. Highway 20/26 last summer.

Trooper Joel Eldred, who is stationed in Glenrock, was responding to a shots-fired call in Douglas on June 30th when his vehicle and a Jeep collided.

Eldred had his lights and sirens on as he traveled at a high rate of speed down the highway, and began to pass a Jeep SUV on the left. The Jeep was traveling the same direction as the trooper.

As the trooper began his pass, the Jeep began to turn left into a business driveway, unaware of the passing patrol car.

Despite the trooper's best efforts to avoid the crash, the two vehicles collided.

Eldred's patrol car went into the ditch and rolled at least four times. Eldred suffered broken ribs, cuts, scrapes and bruises. He was taken from the scene in a helicopter and delivered to Wyoming Medical Center in Casper, where he was hospitalized overnight and released the following day.

Investigators credited Eldred's seat belt and ballistic vest, as well as the safety design of his patrol car, for minimizing his injuries.

The driver of the Jeep, 49-year-old Robin Belgard of Louisiana, was treated and released later on the day of the crash.

Eldred recovered from his injuries for 33 days before returning to full duty in August 2016.

"For the injuries sustained during the performance of his duties, the Wyoming Highway Patrol Association proudly presents Trooper Joel Eldred with the Purple Heart," reads a press release from the association.

Eldred is a 14-year veteran of the highway patrol. He previously served with the Converse County Sheriff's Office.

During his time with the Patrol, Eldred has also been presented with the Rare Breed Award and WYDOT's Extra Mile Award.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Association via Facebook
Wyoming Highway Patrol Association via Facebook

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