Las Vegas Fatal Crash Team Proves It's All in the Details

LAS VEGAS -- The year 2013 saw 175 serious car crashes that killed 114 people, 41 motorcycle crashes that claimed 32 lives, and 61 crashes involving pedestrians that resulted in 46 deaths.

It was a deadly year on Las Vegas roads and a busy year for the eight-member team that makes up the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department's Fatal Detail Unit.

The guys in Metro's fatal unit call each other brothers. They joke around a lot and admit it's a coping mechanism that helps them deal with the death and destruction they see on valley roads.

"Our numbers just kept climbing and climbing," Metro Sgt. Richard Strader said of 2013. "

He thumbs through a notebook, remembering some of the cases.

"It's tragic all the way around," he said. "We don't want this to be the deadliest city in the world."

Strader, who heads the fatal unit, is the face at those fatal scenes giving the latest information to news crews. His group of eight men often spend more time with each other, than their families.

"Accidents happen every time of day, on every day, and we can get called out multiple times a day," said Kenneth Salisbury, a Metro detective. "It's trying. It's absolutely trying."

Salisbury and the other members of the team say they wouldn't have it any other way.

"It doesn't feel like I'm going to work. This is my home, being a traffic guy," he said.

Detective Dave Rooney calls it the pinnacle of his career.

"There's a line of people that wish to be here, but only a certain few are accepted," he said. "You have to have a thick skin in this unit. If you don't, you're going to run away."

There's plenty of frustration in the job, especially when it comes to seeing the aftermath of crashes that could have been avoided.

"Everybody thinks it's not going to happen to them," Strader said.

And there is plenty of disgust when it comes to drunk driving.

"I'm a firm believer that DUI is something that's premeditated," Salisbury said. "I've never drove drunk and killed somebody, and the reason I know that is because I know if I do have alcohol, I'm not going to be driving and that's never going to happen to me because I'm never going to do that."

There is also plenty of sadness that goes along with the job and it can get emotional.

"Some of these things will live with me probably for the rest of my life," Strader said.

One crash he will never forget happened at Spring Mountain Road and Decatur Boulevard in 2012 when drunk driver Gary Lee Hosey plowed into a bus stop killing four people and injuring eight.

"It looked like a bomb exploded," Strader said. "That was pretty horrific."

The team was so affected by what they saw, they had to talk to counselors and each other.

"We pick each other up if we have to," Rooney said.

Hosey was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison.

"Because we do allow ourselves to get emotionally involved, I think that fuels us and gives us the perseverance to put forth all our best energy to that case to get it solved," Salisbury said.

At the end of the day, it's about getting dangerous drivers off the streets to save other lives.

"You can never give that family their loved one back, but if you can ensure that that person who did something wrong will never do it again, then we've done our thing, we've done what we're suppose to do," Strader said.

He adds he is on the television news so frequently talking about fatal crashes, he is often recognized in public. He hopes it reminds people to follow the rules of the road.


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