Officer struck by OSU attacker's vehicle still recovering from injuries
COLUMBUS, Ohio —
This November will be the one-year anniversary of the car and knife attack on the Ohio State campus. One victim is now opening up about his near-death experience.
Theron Ellinger was the first hit by the car last November. To this day, he deals not only with physical pain, but guilt.
Ellinger put the safety of everyone else above his own and says he would do it again.
"You never believe this thing happens here," said OSU Traffic Control Officer Trainer Theron Ellinger
November 28th, 2016 was an otherwise ordinary day for Ellinger when the unbelievable happened.
"On that day, I was working an actual traffic detail," said Ellinger.
Twenty minutes before a car barreled through a crowd, Ellinger says he closed 19th Avenue at College Road for a call he's answered many times over.
"I pulled my cruiser up, put cones out. At that point, the building had been evacuated," said Ellinger.
A fire alarm at Watts Hall brought students out into the cold for what was thought to be a gas leak. Ellinger says an eerie noise caught his attention.
"It sounded almost like you would hear a crash. Then what it turned out to be was the car apparently jumping the curb," said Ellinger.
The same Honda Civic captured on surveillance speeding through campus.
"The first reaction of course is to try to stop it," said Ellinger.
Ellinger made a split second decision to save lives.
"My first concern is we have between 50 to 100 students standing outside, who are completely unaware because they think it's a safe area because I've blocked the road off," said Ellinger.
At that moment, Ellinger says everything seemed like it was in slow motion.
"I was launched about 30 feet in the air," said Ellinger.
He ended up face down on the asphalt with road rash, a dislocated finger and broken leg.
"I called my wife, the call that nobody ever wants to make," said Ellinger.
Just feet away, students were set to meet the same fate. Some were stabbed.
Ellinger says unsung heroes emerged from a woman who held his hand in comfort to an OSU police officer who turned into a human shield.
"He had actually moved his position and had put his body between me and where the situation was basically shielding," said Ellinger.
OSU officer Alan Horujko has since been honored for stopping the attack.
Ellinger lives with what happened every day at home.
"Are you in pain now? There is some pain as far as when I'm walking, sitting. I have been told some of the injuries will be permanent," said Ellinger.
Surgeons spent six hours repairing a fractured vertebrae and shattered left femur.
"There's actually a rod and several screws that are in place that's what's holding it all together," said Ellinger.
Physical pain is only part of his recovery. There's mental anguish too.
"She took a leave of absence from her work in order to take care of me because you're just unable to do the things that we take for granted every day," said Ellinger.
Ellinger and his wife, Dorinda, have two children in college. His wife keeps the family afloat.
"It hasn't stopped for us. It is an every day process both for emotional, our marriage, the family, financial," said Dorinda Ellinger.
Similar attacks around the world trigger memories for Ellinger.
"I looked as this can happen at any age. There were a lot of college students that some of them weren't even 20 years of age. Their lives were just as much in jeopardy as mine was," said Ellinger.
Still badge 611 is eager to return to the road.
"You want to say this doesn't define you," said Ellinger.
Directing more than traffic, he's keeping lives on course.
"What I did that day is what something I hope would do for my kids," said Ellinger.
Ellinger is under the care of several doctors. As for returning to work, it's not just about pain, it's whether he's physically capable to fulfill his role as a traffic control officer.