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California and the West

Hundreds Recall 2 CHP Officers Who Died in River

Funeral: Law enforcement personnel from across U.S. attend service for men whose car plunged off washed-out road during recent storms.

March 01, 1998|From Associated Press

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Hundreds of law enforcement officers from across the nation joined family and friends in crammed church pews to remember Britt Irvine and Rick Stovall, who died while on duty.

The California Highway Patrol officers were killed Tuesday when their cruiser dropped off a section of California 166 washed out by the Cuyama River east of Santa Maria. They were trying to rescue a stranded motorist.

Color portraits of the officers were surrounded by flowers. The officers' remains were cremated earlier. Tears flowed during the two-hour service at Pacific Christian Center church as speakers struggled to express what the two meant to them.

"He was a man who made me whole, a man who spent quality time with his children, a man of great faith, a man who sought wisdom and knowledge," said Stovall's wife, Lynn.

"How do I go on without you? I'm not sure," she added. "But I know that you expect nothing less."

Among those who praised the officers Saturday was President Clinton, who spoke of them when he arrived in Los Angeles in the evening. "I especially want to send our condolences to the families of Officer Rick Stovall and Officer Britt Irvine, who gave their lives in the line of service as they responded to the emergency in Santa Maria," the president said at Los Angeles International Airport.

Mourners at the funeral dabbed at tears as Stovall's 12-year-old daughter, Alyssa, stood up before the congregation and joined a church choir in singing "Come Just As You Are."

Gov. Pete Wilson joined state and local lawmakers in eulogizing the pair. "These were men of uncommon courage and compassion and who know full well the purpose and meaning of the lives they chose," Wilson said.

Not all of the memories were sad. Officer Reggie Julius, a colleague at the Santa Maria station, recalled inviting Irvine to his home for dinner. "He quickly volunteered to cover my beat while I went home and cooked," he said, drawing laughter in the church.

Thousands of other mourners lined the streets outside the church.

Juan Ibarra, 17, and his sister, Veronica, 7, clutched lilies as they waited for the funeral procession to pass. Juan said he was in the CHP Explorer program and rode on patrol with Stovall.

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