Except for a slight limp and a marginally lighter 6-foot-plus frame, there were no obvious giveaways that Cranberry police Cpl. Dan Hahn has spent nearly two years recuperating from life-threatening injuries he suffered in the line of duty.
He was back on the job last week for the first time since he vaulted a bridge overpass while running after a man who had led police on a 20-mile car chase from Sewickley Heights to Jackson. The pursuit ended when the suspect, 22-year-old Thomas W. Booth of Volant, jumped from the overpass, falling 22 feet to his death, and Cpl. Hahn jumped after him, nearly dying himself.
"It's unbelievable. I look at him today and when I think of what he looked like after the incident, well, it's just unbelievable," said Lt. Kevin Meyer, Cranberry's top law enforcement officer.
Cpl. Hahn took a few minutes Wednesday to reflect on the journey he has taken since that night, Feb. 14, 2010.
"It's been intensive. I'm just so happy to be back here. I wanted some normalcy again," he said. Now 49, and with more than 22 years in law enforcement, Cpl. Hahn said he "contemplated retirement but pretty quickly concluded it wasn't for me."
Jeff Schueler, public safety director for Cranberry and Cpl. Hahn's longtime friend and colleague, said he was glad that his buddy saw it that way.
"It's just great to have him back. It's been a long time. I have lots of plans for him," Mr. Schueler said. He has assigned the corporal to a traffic accident data project that will allow him to ply his expertise in accident reconstruction. "We're hoping this will lead one day to unrestricted full duty, but in the meantime, we're going to keep him busy with desk projects," Mr. Schueler said.
Cpl. Hahn's first day back was last Monday, and he will work three days a week for now.
Mr. Schueler credited the officer's "determination and drive" for a recuperation that "amazed health care providers."
Cpl. Hahn's line-of-duty injuries were the most serious ever sustained by a Cranberry officer, Mr. Schueler said. Two other officers had been injured in a domestic incident a number of years ago and had retired, but their injuries were not life-threatening.
Cpl. Hahn's wife, Fritz, said "it's nothing short of a miracle" that her husband is back at work. She watched the past 22 months as he worked through surgeries and physical therapy for a broken back, a broken sternum, a shattered right arm, broken ribs, a concussion, shoulder injuries, a broken big toe that nearly had to be amputated, infections and pneumonia. He was on a ventilator for weeks. He needed a wheelchair or a walker for a long time. Now, he uses a cane to help with balance some of the time but is able to get around the house without it.
"Spinal injuries are hard to heal from," Cpl. Hahn said.
He said he continues to have pain that varies in severity from day to day.
"I feel like I've plateaued [in my recovery]," he said. "I'm hoping the normalcy of work, the distraction, will help with that. I think it will be good to have a purpose."
Karen Kane: firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-772-9180.