ERIE COUNTY, Ohio – May 15th, 2000.
It is a day forever etched in the memories of the family of Trooper Robert Perez, Junior.
It is the day Perez, 24, of Lorain, lost his life three days after his patrol car was struck from behind by a minivan on the Ohio Turnpike in Erie County.
Tuesday afternoon, dozens of his colleagues, family and friends gathered at the highway patrol's Milan post, for a special ceremony on this, National Peace Officers Memorial Day.
They unveiled a new memorial sign dedicated to Trooper Perez, that will be erected along the turnpike, near the crash site.
The ongoing memorial sign program is part of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission's efforts to continue to urge motorists to move over for first responders with flashing lights on highways.
The commission authorized the program last fall, to honor 12 men who died in work zones along the turnpike.
They say it's all in an effort to prevent future tragedy, something Trooper Perez’s family has been pushing for since his death.
His sister, Amanda Owsley said, “It's so important, obviously, not just because of Robert's passing but for other officer's as well. When you see flashing lights, respect those officers and just take a couple of minutes and move your vehicle over."
Lt. Richard Reeder, remembering the day Trooper Perez was injured. "Trooper Perez was on a traffic stop with a violator. While on that stop, his vehicle was struck from behind by a separate vehicle. His injuries, very severe at the time."
Trooper Perez died from his injuries exactly 18 years ago today.
He was killed less than a year after being hired for a job that was his passion.
Because of newly initiated aerial speed enforcement in an around work zones, state troopers have seen a 21 percent decrease in the number of traffic crashes in work zones last year alone.
Most importantly, they say there were zero work zone fatalities in 2017, thanks to their beefed up enforcement.