Cop Tales: It Only Got Worse

By Brian Smith
Special to the Sun

As a Commander of a highway patrol office, I was notified of a possible multiple fatal on the outskirts of town. When I arrived, I noticed the highway patrol helicopter on the berm of the aqueduct, other rescue workers and a highway patrol officer that I will call Officer X. I was told a van with a bunch of people crashed into the aqueduct and the divers were going to search for the bodies. Officer X and I stood there watching as the divers raised up one body after another from the water. They pulled out a woman, then an infant, then another child, then another. It seemed to never end. Every one of them was deceased. It was a horrific scene.

As I learned later, it turned out that the father went to work and realized he forgot his lunch, so he called his wife and asked her to bring it to him. She was not an experienced driver, but she put her four young children and her twelve-year-old niece who was visiting them for the week in her van and dropped off his lunch. On her way back home, she took a curve too fast and instead of hitting the brakes, she hit the accelerator and the vehicle went through the fence and into the aqueduct. The vehicle plunged to the bottom.

After all the bodies were pulled out and a license plate was obtained from the van, I went to the registered owner’s house to make notification, but no one was home (I didn’t know he was at work.) On the way back to the scene, I stopped to buy the officers and firemen refreshments. While I was there, my dispatcher called to notify me that Officer X’s wife had committed suicide. I knew her very well. I asked how Officer X was handling the news. The dispatcher advised he did not know yet and someone had to tell him. Officer X was at the scene with that whole family that perished and now I had to tell him about his wife? It seemed like it took me forever to get to him.

When I returned, I asked him to take a walk away from the accident scene and I broke the news to him. I can’t even describe his reactions. I then asked the highway patrol helicopter pilot to take us to her location. When we got there, I went in to see his wife. I didn’t know how he would ever get through something like that. He had two small children and he knew he had to be there for them (which he always was.)

My day was not over yet. I then had to return to the husband/father’s house of the earlier crash and tell him he lost his entire family. He was home when I got there that time. That was so long ago, but every memory of that day is still stuck in my head.-BS