Bella Villa officer says he’s ‘lucky to have survived’ after crash

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - A Bella Villa police officer injured in a traffic accident last week remains hospitalized with significant injuries. Loved ones are hoping the public will help the officer and his family financially while he is unable to work.

Officer Joseph Lafrance, 32, says he is lucky to be alive after his police vehicle was T-boned by another car last Thursday (March 7) in the 3900 block of Bayless Avenue.

St. Louis County police say the other driver was traveling westbound in a Ford Crossover, just east of Ruprecht Avenue. Lafrance was positioned on the shoulder of the eastbound lanes of Bayless Avenue and attempted to make a U-turn into the eastbound lanes of traffic when his vehicle was struck on the driver's side.

Lafrance's mother, Barbara Jernigan, said she got a call from Lafrance's wife informing her he had been in an accident. Moments later, she saw the accident for herself.

"I turn around and look at the picture on TV because it was breaking news, I was like, 'Oh my God, I know, he's not with us,'" she said.

Lafrance was trapped in his car for nearly 30 minutes while fellow first responders used the Jaws of Life to free him. Police said the driver of the other car was not injured.

Lafrance was admitted to the intensive care unit with several injuries including a broken ankle, pelvis, and tailbone, as well as six broken ribs and a collapsed lung, according to Jernigan. Doctors told the family it could be three to four months before Lafrance can return to work.

Lafrance works three jobs to support his family, Jernigan said. Besides serving and protecting Bella Villa for the past two years, Lafrance also works security and repairs cars.

Jernigan said her son is the primary provider for his wife and their two boys, ages 7 and 11. The family worries how they will keep up with payments for the house, cars, and utilities.

While her son is in a lot of pain, Jernigan said it is the invisible injuries that keep him up at night.

"He feels like it's happening again to him," she said. "He'll wake up through the middle of the night, and he thinks he's in the accident again."

Jernigan said Lafrance will file a workers' compensation claim, but it will not cover all of the lost wages. The family has set up a GoFundMe page to help Lafrance and his family while he is out of work and recovering from the accident.

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