Four days after risking her life to stop an alleged drunken driver from potentially plowing into thousands of runners, a Florida state trooper was not leaving the evidence lot until she found the beloved item that has kept her safe on the job for 26 years.
Toni Schuck recovered her late grandmother's Bible from the wreckage of her Florida Highway Patrol SUV on Thursday, telling NBC News senior national correspondent Kerry Sanders on TODAY that her grandmother was a "guardian angel" watching over her.
Video from Schuck’s dashcam shows the harrowing moment on Sunday when she maneuvered her Chevy Tahoe into the path of a speeding BMW, causing a head-on collision that stopped the driver from potentially crashing into a crowd of several thousand runners in a charity race on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
“We don’t have any type of training to go head-on with a vehicle like that,” Schuck told Sanders. “It was ultimately instinct because I knew I was the last line of defense for those runners on that bridge.”
Florida trooper uses patrol car to block speeding driverMarch 8, 202200:38
Authorities believe the suspect, Kristen Kay Watts, 52, of Sarasota, was driving at more than 70 miles per hour down a closed highway leading to the 4-mile-long bridge, which spans Tampa Bay. The road and bridge had been closed for runners participating in the fifth annual Skyway 10K race, which helps the Armed Forces Families Foundation.
“I’ve never been in this position where I've had to put myself for somebody else,” Schuck tearfully said at a press conference on Thursday.
James Judge is one of the runners in the race who is grateful for Schuck’s bravery and quick thinking.
“I just can’t thank you enough for what you did,” he said at the press conference. “Because it's heroic in every aspect of the word.”
Even though Schuck put herself in harm's way, she didn't believe it would actually result in a collision.
“I honestly did not think it was going to end the way it did,” she said at her press conference. “I thought she was going to stop.”
Schuck, a 26-year law enforcement veteran and mother of two, is recovering at home from her injuries after being taken to the hospital on the day of the crash.
“I was sworn to protect, and that’s what I felt I did,” she said at the press conference. “Hero, that’s just a title.”
Watts’ blood alcohol level while being treated in the hospital for her injuries was more than three times the legal limit and was still .09 six hours after the crash, according to an arrest report cited by NBC affiliate WFLA. The legal limit in Florida is .08.
Watts, who remains in the Manatee County Jail, has been charged with DUI serious injury, two counts of reckless driving involving injury and property damage, and two counts of DUI property damage, according to a news release by the FHP.