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Andolina injured four times in 3 years Officer is expected to return to work

He got whacked by a boat railing in the first incident. He suffered a torn rotator cuff in the next one. Then he took a bullet in the neck. And most recently, a major blood vessel in his leg was damaged in a motorcycle accident.

Carl E. Andolina has been a patient in Erie County Medical Center four times within the last three years, three times after being knocked down in the line of duty.

He's back in ECMC now, recovering from the fourth serious injury, the early Wednesday morning motorcycle crash that damaged his femoral artery and caused him to lose a lot of blood.

Andolina, 42, has been a magnet for physical injury wherever he's been. He's been injured on a boat, on a bicycle, on patrol and on his own motorcycle.

"On one hand, I don't know why all these things happen to one person," said Getzville Fire Chief Irv Isenberg, part of the crew that rescued Andolina on Wednesday. "But I think somebody must be watching over him."

No one who has worked with Andolina is betting against his returning to the streets after he recovers from his latest injury.

"He has it in his heart that he wants to be a police officer," said Lt. Sean O'Brien, who works with Andolina in the Central District station house. "When you want something that bad, that's what you do."

Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, who has stood by Andolina in his last two hospital stays, expects the 6-foot-7-inch officer to return to work.

"Provided the leg heals and he's not forced into any disabling condition, I do expect him to return to duty," Gipson said Friday. "I think he expects that of himself."

Three of the four accidents occurred while Andolina was on duty, two as an Erie County sheriff's deputy and the other as a Buffalo police officer.

"It does show that police officers are put in a dangerous situation on a daily basis," O'Brien said. "That's part of our job, and we accept that."

"Most [police officers] can go a whole career without any kind of serious injury," Undersheriff Richard T. Donovan said. "This shows that he's out there working hard, doing what he's supposed to be doing."

Here are the details of the four incidents that sent Andolina to ECMC:

On July 17, 2004, as an Erie County sheriff's deputy on a routine water-rescue training exercise, Andolina was on a 28-foot boat when the center console broke apart from the hull during "evasive exercises."

Law enforcement officials' memories are a bit sketchy on the incident, but they believe he was dumped into the water off Erie Basin Marina after being struck in the head or shoulder by a boat railing.

After being rescued, Andolina was treated and released from ECMC and remained off-duty for several weeks, sheriff's officials believe.

Four months later, on Nov. 7, 2004, Andolina was struck from behind by a drunken driver while on bike patrol outside Ralph Wilson Stadium following a Buffalo Bills game.

"He was thrown from his bicycle into the air and landed on the vehicle that hit him, crushing the windshield and part of the roof and hood," Sheriff's Patrol Chief Dennis Rankin said. "That was how hard he was hit."

The car was destroyed, and Andolina was treated in ECMC for a torn rotator cuff, sheriff's officials said.

The incidents then began to get more serious.

On Dec. 5, Andolina was shot twice in an attack that left him tackling an assailant who shot both him and his partner, Officer Patricia Parete.

This time, he spent two days in ECMC, leaving the hospital with a .38-caliber bullet still lodged in his neck. Parete remains in rehabilitation after suffering severe spinal injuries in the shooting.

"He was just millimeters from being in the same condition [Parete] is," Gipson has said.

And Wednesday morning, Andolina, while off duty, was severely injured when an SUV driven by a 17-year-old boy cut in front of his motorcycle in Amherst. The handlebars pierced Andolina's right thigh, damaging the femoral artery.

Getzville Assistant Chief Brian Will, Lt. Dan Demerle and Chief Isenberg were the first firefighters to arrive.

"He [Andolina] had his hand over the wound area, and he was trying to stop the bleeding, but it was still bleeding profusely when we got there," Isenberg said.

Will and Demerle put a pressure dressing on the wound, applied pressure above the wound and worked with other emergency personnel to stabilize Andolina.

"I absolutely am convinced that if those two firefighters hadn't gotten to the scene as quickly as they did, he would have died," Isenberg said. "He was bleeding that profusely."

Gipson was peppered Friday with inquiries about Andolina's being on his motorcycle early Wednesday morning, while he remained on "injured-on-duty" status from the shooting.

"It's something that we will have to look at," the commissioner said. "Now is not the time to put it on the front burner. I have assigned it to a member of my administrative team to investigate it."

Gipson hopes Andolina returns to active duty. He doesn't want to lose an officer who tackled the December shooting assailant, putting himself more in harm's way.

"He'd be a lineman I'd run behind," Gipson said.

Andolina's condition was upgraded to fair on Friday.

"He's up and talking," hospital spokesman Thomas Quatroche said during an afternoon news conference. It is unknown when Andolina will be discharged from the hospital, however.

News Staff reporter Janice L. Habuda contributed to this report.


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