ASCENSION PARISH- For Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Sergeant Art Lemane, what was supposed to be a routine traffic duty shift at a local church in late October, turned into an unfortunate situation.
“I was working a traffic detail at a local church off of Perkins Road, and I had stopped both lanes of traffic, and a car wasn’t paying attention and swerved around that stopped vehicle and actually struck me,” the sergeant recalled. “It was quick. He hit the initial stopped car. And then when he saw me, he tried to swerve back in the lane, but he couldn’t get back in time and then hit me with his front headlight and knocked me over.”
Lemane said the gun vest took a lot of the impact, but he still broke his pelvis in a few places to go along with bladder issues. He said all of his injuries occurred below the bulletproof vest.
“That pretty much saved my life,” he said. “Where the bulletproof vest was was my gun belt, and that folded into my stomach, and that’s where all the damage came. I never lost consciousness, but I was in an incredible amount of pain.”
“I want to give a kudos to the fire department because they were right there at the fair, doing a little demonstration,” he added. “If it weren’t for those guys, it would have made my life a whole lot worse. They were right on the scene. Within 15 – 30 seconds, they were there, handling business, and had already started patching me up and everything like that, assessing the situation.”
The APSO sergeant said this was not the first time someone had hit him with a car. Earlier in his career, a drunk driver hit him in the middle of the night while he was on duty. He said he believes complacency and lack of attention creates these accidents.
“He wasn’t paying attention, and the results ended up with me in the hospital,” Lemane explained. “We’ve had several deputies in our unit who have been hit in the past. I’m not the first one. The problem, I think, is the public and myself when I’m off duty, you get complacent, you start looking around and not paying attention, playing with the radio and stuff like that, or the kids are yelling in the backseat. I think the biggest problem is people don’t realize on these sunny, clear days that it becomes an issue of not paying attention. Cell phones have really, really caused a lot of issues.”
He said he won’t be able to put any weight on any bone structure for at least the next six weeks. That means he’ll be getting around in a wheelchair for a while before he can advance to using a walker.
Lemane’s hospital room was filled with cards and balloons offering support and hopes for a speedy recovery.
He said he worked in the public school system for 14 years and developed relationships with the community.
“It’s really a good feeling to know that you’ve made a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “It really is heartwarming to see how many lives I possibly have affected throughout the years.”
Despite his injuries, the sergeant said he enjoys serving the public.
“I was in the Navy for several years, and I just had a desire to serve the public,” Lemane explained. “When I got hit by the drunk driver, it was almost a quest to just make it back, to feel whole again. Being in law enforcement is a blessing. Not everybody can do it. Those who do are special people.”