East Tennessee's law enforcement community mourned Friday when a veteran Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper died after his cruiser slid off an icy Corryton road.
Trooper Michael Slagle died from what appeared to be natural causes after he crashed on Longmire Road in northeast Knox County shortly before 7 a.m., according to a THP news release.
Slagle at 6:51 a.m. reported his cruiser had slid off the road near the intersection with East Emory Road. He lived in the area.
Emergency workers had trouble reaching the injured trooper because of icy roads.
A Rural/Metro fire truck sent to the scene slid off the road and toppled onto Slagle's disabled cruiser, which was at the bottom of a 10-foot embankment.
None of the five firefighters aboard the truck were injured.
When the fire truck slid into the cruiser, it injured a man who had gone to check on Slagle. That man was loaded aboard a four-wheel drive vehicle by paramedics and taken to the hospital around 10 a.m.
The man's name and condition were not available Friday.
Col. Tracy Trott, commander of the THP, said Slagle was a 26-year veteran of the agency.
"He was a model trooper and a good man. It is a very sad day for our Highway Patrol family and all who knew Michael," Trott said. "Our prayers go out to his family during this difficult time."
Grainger County Sheriff Scott Layel, a friend, compared Slagle to THP Sgt. Lowell Russell, who continues to recover from injuries suffered in March when a tractor-trailer ran into Russell's cruiser on the shoulder of Interstate 40 West in Knoxville.
"He had a job to do, but he had a big heart. He and Lowell Russell are in the same category -- they're just very special people," Layel said. "They love people, and people love them. They have the ability to reach people and touch people."
Layel said Slagle was nearing retirement after more than 25 years with the THP.
"It's a shame he won't be able to enjoy his retirement with his family," Layel said. "We're speechless. It's just a tragedy, I can't believe this happened."
THP Sgt. Randall Martin met Slagle in 2000 and called him dependable and quick to listen.
"You have to know Mike to understand and appreciate him. He doesn't get too worked up about too many things," Martin said. "He is just one of those guys you count yourself fortunate to know."
Martin said Slagle always had a good sense of humor.
"His whole demeanor was one of those (that) you enjoyed being around," Martin said, "He had a good relationship with everyone here in the Knoxville district."
Officials said Slagle, a Grainger County-native, joined the THP in 1986 and was initially assigned to Campbell County. During his tenure, he served in Union and Knox counties before his final assignment to the state Supreme Court security detail in Knoxville, authorities said.
Survivors include Slagle's wife, two daughters and a son.
Funeral arrangements remained incomplete Friday.
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