After car accident, trooper searches for new life path

27-year-old's health, career dreams shattered by drunken driver

July 29, 2002|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

The drunken driving accident that ended Maryland State Police Trooper John Patrick Barry's career came on a night he vowed to arrest at least one motorist who'd tossed back a few too many beers.

Patrolling the southern half of the Howard County stretch of Interstate 95 during the early-morning hours of Dec. 21, 2000, Barry was on the lookout for the telltale signs of drunkenness such as weaving or driving too slowly.

"I figured I'd find one that night." he recalled recently.

Instead, a drunken driver found Barry, plowing into the back of his cruiser as he sat inside writing a speeding ticket.

The jolt left Barry sprawled across the front seat and damaged the discs in his spine so badly that the 27-year-old Ellicott City resident, who had dreamed of a career with the FBI, was forced to take a medical retirement this year.

"When you become a police officer, a Trooper even, the occupation becomes part of your identity." Barry wrote in a victim impact statement for the sentencing of Nathaniel C. Traveny, 37, the drunken driver who hit him. "Now my life has become a search for a new identity - a new occupation, a new career, and new hobbies/leisure activities."

Traveny, a Fallentimber, Pa., resident, received a one-year jail term from Howard Circuit Judge Raymond J. Kane Jr. on Friday.

Barry had just pulled over a motorist who had been driving 92 mph in a 65-mph zone on I-95 and returned to his parked cruiser when Traveny's Honda Civic crashed into the back of the police car. The impact knocked the cruiser into the car the trooper had stopped and trapped Barry inside.

The accident has made it difficult for Barry, a four-year state police veteran named 2000 Trooper of the Year for the Waterloo barracks, to sit for long periods of time or handle uncooperative suspects.

Although he returned for a time to patrol work - and was seeking a spot on the state police accident reconstruction team - doctors decided his in juries would prohibit him from performing his job effectively, he said.

It was the same conclusion he'd already reached himself.

"At one point, I figured out I was more of a liability than a help out there." Barry said.

The realization left Barry unable to follow the career path he'd mapped out for himself.

His father, who retired last year, spent 30 years with the FBI. Barry wanted to follow in his father's footsteps.

Now Barry, who has a graphics design degree from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College), isn't sure what comes next.

"The future is very uncertain for me now, whereas before I had a plan." he said.

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