I-5 procession honors trooper killed on duty
Genna Martin / The Herald
The motorcade bringing State Patrol trooper Sean O'Connell's body to Solie Funeral Home travels up 41st Street in Everett on Sunday.
Genna Martin / The Herald
State Patrol troopers gather outside Solie Funeral Home in Everett to honor fellow trooper Sean O'Connell on Sunday. O'Connell died Friday from injuries sustained in an on-duty motorcycle accident in Skagit County.
Genna Martin / The Herald
State Patrol troopers console each other outside Solie Funeral Home in Everett where they gathered to honor fellow trooper Sean O'Connell on Sunday. O'Connell died Friday from injuries sustained in an on-duty motorcycle accident in Skagit County.
Genna Martin / The Herald
State Patrol troopers gather outside Solie Funeral Home in Everett to honor fellow Trooper Sean O'Connell on Sunday. O'Connell died Friday from injuries sustained in an on-duty motorcycle accident in Skagit County.
Jon Bauer / The Herald
Firefighters from Skagit County Fire District 3 for Conway and Cedardale stand along the I-5 overpass in Conway as the motorcade for State Patrol trooper Sean O'Connell passes beneath them Sunday morning.
Michael O'Leary / The Herald
An honor guard lines the alleyway as a hearse carrying the body of State Patrol trooper Sean O'Connell arrives at Solie Funeral Home in Everett on Sunday afternoon.
Among those lining up at the Mount Vernon hospital on Sunday was Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick, who had supervised O'Connell when Lovick worked for the State Patrol.
"They say there are no perfect people in this world," said Lovick, choking back tears. "But Sean was as perfect a guy as I have ever known."
O'Connell died Friday from injuries in an on-duty motorcycle accident at Fir Island Road and Greenview Road in Conway.
O'Connell, 38, was a 16-year veteran of the State Patrol. He made his home in Lake Stevens and worked out of the patrol's Marysville office. He is survived by his wife and two young children.
A small group, some carrying American flags, gathered on the overpass above I-5 in Conway, including firefighters and EMTs with Skagit County Fire District 3's departments in Conway and Cedardale.
They stood silently as a long line of law enforcement motorcycles and patrol cruisers passed beneath them.
Keith Hill, a District 3 firefighter, was one of those who responded to Friday's accident scene steps away from the Conway fire station. Hill said the call came out as "motorcycle down," and he and other first responders didn't realize a State Patrol trooper was involved until they arrived at their station.
"We came here today as moral support. They (law enforcement) are there with us when we respond," Hill said. "He's our brother."
O'Connell had been working traffic control, assessing the backup on Fir Island Road, when his motorcycle and a box truck collided. He died of his injuries at Skagit Valley Hospital.
Keith Leary, a trooper with the Washington State Patrol, said Sunday that no further information about the accident was being released. "The investigation continues and we're focused on the memorial service at this point," he said.
Details of O'Connell's funeral are expected to be announced on Monday.
The I-5 bridge collapse May 23 over the Skagit River between Mount Vernon and Burlington has created traffic problems on city and county roads as people try to navigate their way around the closed bridge.
Though Best Road-Fir Island Road is not a sanctioned detour, many people, including truck drivers, have been using the route to and from the freeway.
On Sunday morning, a state Department of Transportation crew was putting up temporary traffic signals at the intersection of Fir Island Road and Pioneer Highway in Conway. A roundabout is set to be built at the busy intersection often used by people from Stanwood and Camano Island.
Mount Vernon Mayor Jill Boudreau called O'Connell's death the first fatality related to the bridge collapse.
"He is our first casualty. We are very heartbroken," Boudreau said.
Burlington Mayor Steve Sexton agreed.
"The bridge collapse is a disaster," Sexton said. "But this is a tragedy."
A group of about 25 people gathered down the hill from the hospital near the I-5 entrance in downtown Mount Vernon.
Among them was Cheryl Pratt, who works in Conway and whose son is the chief of the Conway Fire Department. The scene of the crash was out in front of the firehouse. Throughout the weekend people have brought flowers to the spot.
"Trooper O'Connell was a public servant who gave his life for the safety of other people," Pratt said. "This is a terrible tragedy. People need to slow down and use the designated detours. Everybody needs to have more patience. I hope this is a wake-up call for all the people driving through our area."
At 11:15 a.m. two dozen motorcycle law enforcement officers drove down the hill from the hospital to I-5. The crowd gathered to watch stood in solemn silence, holding up flags and putting their hands over their hearts.
Jeff and Gloria Caulk of Mount Vernon live near Conway and were also at the Conway overpass with their grandchildren to offer their support. The Caulks have a son who is a Skagit County Sheriff's deputy and another who is a firefighter with Kirkland.
"We wanted to honor all our first responders who give to the community," Jeff Caulk said. "It's a very tough job and they don't get the credit they deserve."
In Everett, people began gathering along the sidewalk near the funeral home on Colby Avenue about an hour before the motorcade arrived.
Among them was Ann Delaurentis of Mountlake Terrace, and her son, Joseph Delaurentis, 24, who served in the Navy for five years.
"We just wanted to pay our respects," Ann Delaurentis said. "We're grateful citizens paying our respects."
Jody Petersen, of Marysville, said she knows two long-time members of the Washington State Patrol. "This is just a sad thing," she said.
Donna Casey of Lynnwood said she made a point to stand on the sidewalk near the funeral home after remembering that the procession would end in Everett.
"I'm really sorry to see it," she said. "There's too many of these things that are happening of officers getting hurt."
At the back of the funeral home, 12 people formed two rows, standing guard along the entryway. They held American flags that gently flapped in the noontime breeze as the procession neared. Many were members of Washington State Patriot Guard Riders.
The group turns out to honor fallen police officers and firefighters, "to help take some of the pain away and let people know that people do care," said Mark Telford, of Woodinville, the group's assistant state captain.
Three Washington State Patrol officers snapped to salutes as the procession arrived about 12:15 p.m.
Dozens of law enforcement officers from Everett, Lake Stevens, Seattle, Lynnwood and the Snohomish County Sheriff's office, including Lovick, formed a long double line behind the procession.
"It's called a cordon of honor, out of respect for the family," said Bob Calkins, a State Patrol spokesman.
One family stood nearby on the sidewalk behind the funeral home, hugging each other to comfort their tears.
Jay Harris of Lake Stevens said that he and his family lived just minutes from O'Connell's home, and his kids sometimes baby-sat his children.
"He was a great guy, a great dad, and a great pillar to our neighborhood and community," Harris said. "We'll miss him."
Public donations in honor of Washington State Patrol trooper Sean O'Connell are being accepted by the Washington State Patrol Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 7544, Olympia, WA 98507. Donations are used to provide financial support and scholarships to the families of officers who died while on duty.
Herald writer Jon Bauer contributed to this report.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; email@example.com.
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