MORROW COUNTY, OH (WCMH) — For the first time, Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Jason Phillips spoke publicly about the aftermath of the crash which nearly claimed his life.
Phillips was investigating reports of a wrong-way driver on I-71 near Mount Gilead on June 27.
Investigators said that the wrong-way driver, later identified as Michael Marchak Jr., crashed into Phillips cruiser at a high rate of speed.
Phillips, initially said to be listed in critical but stable condition, spent two months in the hospital and in a rehabilitation facility.
On Wednesday, he and his parents spoke about his recovery.
“I have to still work on my speech and learn to walk again, and my memory,” Phillips said.
On Wednesday, Phillips joined fellow troopers in a ceremony recognizing the other drivers who helped pull him and Marchak from their burning vehicles after the wreck.
The first responders and medical personnel who assisted in the trooper’s recovery were also recognized.
“I was just thankful he made it,” said Judy Ortiz, from Morrow County EMS. “I said lots of prayers, and I was just thankful I got to meet him.”
Phillips expressed gratitude, not only to his fellow first responders but also to members of the public who have sent messages and cards of encouragement.
“Just thank you for thinking of me and caring,” he said. “I know it’s just a card, but it still makes a difference.”
Phillips said he hopes to return to work as a trooper when he is healed, a sentiment his parents support.
“He has a love to be a trooper and we backed him up on that,” said Tina Phillips, his mother. “We still back him up on that.”
Investigators said Marchak was driving a stolen van at the time of the crash. They also said he was under the influence of methamphetamine.
Marchak has been charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular assault, as receiving stolen property, operating a vehicle impaired and driving under suspension.