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Officer's job in danger after he was hit in off-duty crash

Surveillance video showed a car crashing through a Eureka restaurant and hitting customers head-on.

EUREKA, Mo. — If it wasn't for the video, it might be hard to understand just how lucky Keith Mesmer is to be alive.

"Sounded like a bomb went off and I got thrown forward," recalled Mesmer.

And, it might be just as hard to make sense of his reaction without knowing his background as a police officer with 12 years of experience.

"The first thing I was thinking was 'Is everybody else OK?'" Mesmer remembered asking himself as soon as he was hit. 

He was off duty, sitting at the bar and having dinner at Poor Richard's in Eureka when video shows a car crashed through the wall of the restaurant. Mesmer took a direct hit. He said he had just seen the driver of this car ordering a drink moments before and believed he was already under the influence.

RELATED: Man accused of crashing into Eureka restaurant charged with DWI, leaving scene of crash

"Yes," said Mesmer based on his training. "Easily noticeable." 

Police charged the driver with a DWI.

Doctors diagnosed Mesmer with severe neck, back and leg injuries.

He says they tell him it will be at least 12 weeks before he's cleared to go back to work. But Mesmer said his department is telling him he has 10 days to return.

With just a year at his latest department, Riverview, Mesmer said his chief said they'll have to hire someone else to replace him once his vacation and sick leave run out.

With fewer than 50 employees, laws like the Family Medical Leave Act don't cover Riverview and Mesmer said the staff is too small to go with one fewer officer while he recovers.

With the bills still coming and even bigger bills expected, Mesmer isn't sure how he'll support his wife and three children.

"We're trying not to freak out," said Mesmer. "I'm a cop she's a veterinarian tech, we live paycheck to paycheck."

"We just don't know what we're going to do right now," said Mesmer.

His attorney said the establishment where the incident happened may be liable for serving the driver if he was already drunk. And some friends and family have a GoFundMe going that could help until he's able to work again.