Survivor Credits NHP Trooper With Saving Lives In Wrong Way I-80 Accident

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It was not, Jackie Conley began by saying, the way she imagined meeting her husband's co-workers.
But she had to say to him and a fellow trooper.

The occasion was a recognition ceremony Thursday at the Highway Patrol's Reno headquarters. One of those being recognized for five years service was Trooper David Gibson.

Conley was there to say thanks for something else.

She and her husband, NHP Trooper Rob Conley, were driving home to Fernley from Reno with their two young sons in the back seat Saturday night.

Suddenly her husband saw an NHP cruiser speeding in their direction, his spotlight shining in their direction.

Behind it another pair of headlights.

"That car is in your lane!" she remembers him yelling. "I look and sure enough. I see headlights heading straight toward us."

The trooper in that cruiser speeding ahead to warn oncoming traffic was David Gibson. He'd been chasing the wrong way driver for miles, making repeated attempts to stop them, putting road spikes in their path, even stopping in front of them inviting a collision. Nothing worked.

As the two vehicles headed west into the Truckee Canyon he realized he wouldn't be able to speed ahead in the west bound lanes. So, he pulled into the east bound side of the divided freeway, speeding ahead of the errant vehicle.

"I used the spotlight on my patrol vehicle to actually shine onto the oncoming traffic hoping to just alert them that something was wrong."

It worked. Seeing his flashing lights and the spotlight, Rob Conley, saw the headlights of the wrong way vehicle and alerted his wife.

Shortly after the wrong way vehicle missed the Conley's car it struck a boat trailer. Then another vehicle.

The driver of the errant car, 42 year old Tonya Babaschoff was killed. One other driver suffered moderate injuries.

But for Gibson's warning, Jackie Conley believes her family would have been killed.

"There's no way we would have survived, if we'd been hit by that car."

And so, in front of his fellow troopers, she told him she'd always be grateful then gave him a hug.

Gibson says it meant everything.

"I'd much rather have a person standing in front of me saying thank you instead of having a piece of paper that would say I was a trooper for so many years. I like helping people. That's kind of what the job entails."

The incident is still under investigation. It's not known why Babaschoff was driving on the wrong side of the freeway.