Officer Ariza ‘extremely fortunate’ to be alive

Officer Ariza ‘extremely fortunate’ to be alive

Police said Officer Christian Ariza was lucky to be alive after last Thursday’s crash.
Tikoian: DUI crashes are easily avoidable

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Police and town officials agree: Officer Christian Ariza is fortunate to be alive after a drunk driver crossed the double yellow lines of Douglas Avenue with her jeep last Thursday, Jan. 24, and plowed into his cruiser.

Ariza suffered a broken left arm and injured elbow, broken left knee cap and injury to his left hip, said Chief David Tikoian. He underwent a four-hour surgery to repair his left arm and elbow last Thursday.

“I was able to visit briefly with Officer Ariza after the surgery. He was alert and in good spirits,” said Tikoian. “By all accounts he was extremely fortunate to have survived this head-on collision caused by an impaired driver charged with operating under the influence.”

The officer underwent another surgery last Friday to repair a broken kneecap.

“I visited him at the hospital several times over the weekend and he maintains a positive attitude and is in good spirits,” said Tikoian.

Ariza is a fine officer and a respected member of the department, said Tikoian. “He has a wonderful family that remains by his side as he recovers from his injuries.”

Local police have received an outpouring of support from law enforcement agencies across the state as well as the public, all wishing Ariza a speedy recovery, said Tikoian.

Police said Jillian Vega was driving drunk on Douglas Avenue when she crashed into Ariza coming the other direction. The collision happened around 1 a.m. in the vicinity of 1480 Douglas Ave., between Notte Park/Camp Meehan and Mineral Spring Avenue, near Lowe’s Home Improvement. Ariza was traveling northbound on Douglas Avenue when Vega, traveling southbound on Douglas Avenue, crossed the center lines and collided with the police cruiser. Both vehicles sustained heavy damage, as depicted in several photos released by police.

The North Providence Police and Fire Departments, as well as members of the Rhode Island State Police, responded to the scene. Ariza was trapped in the police vehicle as a result of the damage to the front of his vehicle from the collision. Fire personnel had to use hydraulic extraction tools to remove him from the vehicle.

Vega, who according to court records turned 21 on Jan. 18, six days before the incident, allegedly showed signs of being impaired when speaking with a police officer. Investigating officers asked Vega to submit to standardized field sobriety tests to determine if she was under the influence of alcohol. As a result of the test, the investigating officers obtained sufficient probable cause to conclude that Vega was impaired.

Vega, of 13 Palm St. in North Providence, was arrested and submitted to a breath test. On the first test, her blood alcohol content was measured at .130 and her second level was measured at .132. Both of these readings are above the legal limit of .08.

Ariza was transported to Rhode Island Hospital where he was treated for his extensive injuries. Vega was not injured.

Ariza has been a member of the North Providence Police Department since December 2015. He is a member of the Army National Guard. He was deployed on active duty for one year, returning to work for the North Providence Police Department last April.

Vega was held at the North Providence Police Department. She was arraigned in Third District Court, charged with DUI involving bodily injury, driving to endanger resulting in personal injury, operating left of center, operating without evidence of insurance, laned roadway violation and exceeding reasonable and prudent speeds. The civil charges will be heard at the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.

Vega is due back in court on April 18. She was released last week on $10,000 personal recognizance.

The investigation was conducted jointly by the North Providence Police Department and the Rhode Island State Police.

Chief Tikoian thanked Mayor Charles Lombardi, members of law enforcement, North Providence Fire Department, Rhode Island Hospital and the public for all their support of Ariza.

Chief: These incidents are avoidable

Tikoian said police continue to educate the public on the dangers of drunk, drugged and distracted driving. Law enforcement agencies across the state work closely with state and federal agencies and groups pushing the message on the dangers and consequences of driving impaired, he said.

In addition to efforts such as the statewide campaign “The Ripple Effect,” local police have had “ground-level efforts” such as bringing the BAT (Breath Alcohol Testing) Mobile to North Providence High School around Thanksgiving, he said.

“From my perspective, these types of incidents are totally avoidable,” said the chief. “There are many options available to folks who wish to engage in consuming alcohol to a degree, causing them to become so impaired it affects their ability to operate a motor vehicle.”

Available options include designating a non-drinking member of a group to be the sober driver, using transportation services or calling a family member for a ride, he said.

“From my perspective it’s about changing behavior. You make a conscious decision to go out, engage in consuming alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle,” said Tikoian. He suggested planning ahead to make arrangements to get home safely.

Since assuming command of the North Providence Police Department in August 2017, said Tikoian, he has placed an emphasis on DUI enforcement. The department applied for and received $4,000 in available grant funding to supplement normal patrols with increased targeted DUI enforcement patrols. 

“This has resulted in almost doubling the number of DUI arrests from 41 in 2017 to (more than) 70 in 2018,” he said. “I applaud the efforts of our officers, they have responded to the emphasis placed upon this issue and made DUI enforcement a priority.”

Last week’s DUI crash hit close to home, said Tikoian, because one of his department’s own officers became a victim.

“I implore folks to think about the serious life-changing ramifications of driving impaired and consider those available options to keep everyone safe,” he said.

 

The aftermath of a head-on collision on Douglas Avenue early last Thursday morning between a drunk driver and a North Providence police officer.

Comments

Someone from above was surely watching out for this officer. Hope he is feeling better today. And I hope and pray this young 21 yr old woman, uses this as a wake-up call; driving drunk and without insurance and almost killing someone is not something to have parents be proud of. Make your life count for something good. You've been given the opportunity. God bless.