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Sent on Mormon-News: 09May01

By Kent Larsen

LDS Police Officer Dies in Fall from Colorado Bridge

VAIL, COLORADO -- Ryan Cunningham, 27, an officer in the Vail Police Department, died early Sunday morning after he jumped off an overpass to avoid being hit by a tractor-trailer. Cunningham, who was on duty at the time, had warned others to get out of the way of the out-of-control truck, leaving him without enough time to escape without jumping.

Cunningham and another officer responded to an accident at 5 am Sunday and were on an I-70 bridge on the eastern edge of Vail trying to clear the accident. An approaching tractor-trailer went out of control and started sliding toward Cunningham, the other officer and some bystanders. Cunningham warned the others so that they could get to safety, but discovered that he was trapped on the bridge with the semi sliding toward him.

"Only after he had done his duty, then he thought of himself and tried to get out of (its) path," said Sgt. Ron Prater of the Colorado State Patrol, the agency which was investigating the incident. Prater added that the bridge was flanked by concrete barriers, and in the pre-dawn darkness, Cunningham couldn't have known how far the bridge was above the ground. "On the side that officer Cunningham jumped there's really nothing there to reference the height. It's easy to lose track of exactly where you are at night especially with a large semi approaching you," he said. Cunningham fell about 60 feet, and was later pronounced dead at Vail Valley Medical Center.

Cunningham's fellow officers remembered himas a dedicated worker, "We've lost one of the best police officers I've ever known," Police Chief Greg Morrison said. "Meeting with family and notifying this community is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do." His brother, Todd Cunningham of Denver, said Ryan had achieved his goals in life, "My brother had achieved his goals. He had finished the academy and become a police officer. He died doing what he enjoyed." Cunningham is survived by his wife, Karen, and 6-month-old daughter, Halle.


Vail police officer dies after fall from I-70 bridge
Longmont CO Daily Times-Call (AP) 7May01 P2
Associated Press


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