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Douglas County deputy receives award for helping victim of a DUI crash

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DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — A college student who survived getting hit head-on by a drunk driver is sharing her story. She also got to present the Douglas County Sheriff’S deputy who helped saved her life with a Mothers Against Drunk Driving award.

It was Nov. 15, 2019. A day Erin Martinez and Deputy T.J. Kyle will never forget.

“It honestly still feels unreal at this moment. Especially since the drunk driver was headed my way at 90 miles per hour,” Martinez said.

“I saw headlights coming. I didn’t have any time to react. I just remember hitting the brakes as hard as I could. I faded in and out of consciousness. I was completely out of it until I woke up in the ambulance and thought ‘what just happened?’”

Somehow, Martinez and a friend in her car survived, although they were seriously injured. The driver of the other car did not survive.

“The impact of the crash was horrific,” Kyle said. “I got in the passenger seat. Erin was trying to struggle to get out of the car. She was yelling and screaming. I was trying to keep her calm and gotta keep her neck still based on what I see from the impact. She’s probably going to hurt herself more if she continues to fight to get out of the car.”

He was the first on scene that night, but will be the last to leave her side. Deputy Kyle picked up a picture at the scene, knowing it was probably meaningful to Martinez. He visited her in the hospital, gave her the picture and filled her parents in on what had happened that night.

“I drove up to the hospital and dropped it off for her. The next day, I just wanted to check on her to make sure she was OK. I didn’t feel like the outcome could be very good for her,” Kyle said. “I checked on her several days until she was released. She still checks on me and I check on her every so often.”

Martinez said, “I was like this is someone who truly cares. He didn’t just do his job and left.”

Kyle said, “In reality, I would want someone to do it for my own family. I wanted to be somebody that was there to say we do care at the sheriff’s office, we do care about victims. You are not forgotten.”

November 15 was a difficult day for Deputy Kyle. He had not worked on that night since 2015. He said, “I watched a trooper friend that was killed on that day by a drunk driver as well.” 

These two were meant to cross paths. In some ways Martinez was helping to make sure Deputy Kyle was OK too. She said, “Seeing someone who survived is cool for him.”

Martinez and her family nominated and presented him with “The Mothers Against Drunk Driving Hero Award.”

“The biggest award for me was to have her get out of the hospital and making sure she recovered,” Kyle said. “These are the moments that make it worth it. That’s why we do our job.”

Erin has a message for the community: “My dad’s a police officer too, so we very much support police officers. Especially police officers like T.J. who are so committed to caring about others. He saved my life that day. When we see what is happening these days, we think of Deputy Kyle and think no matter what happens, he is one of the good guys and we will be forever grateful to him our world and community are better because he is in it.”

Martinez and her family have adopted that section of highway and clean it up several times a year. She also helps MADD get their message out to not drink and drive and to make good choices before getting behind the wheel.

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