June 13, 2007
La. deputy dies when tree falls during funeral procession for colleague
Officer Down: Corporal Linden "Beau" Raimer - [Madisonville, Louisiana]
Cause of Death: Weather/Natural disaster
Additional Information: Corporal Raimer had served with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office since June 17, 1997.
Incident Details: Corporal Linden "Beau" Raimer was killed when a pine tree that had been struck by lightning hit his patrol car.
End of Watch: June 13, 2007
Corporal Raimer and another deputy were in the funeral procession for Deputy Sheriff Hilery A. Mayo Jr., when the accident happened. The procession was moving through Covington when the violent thunderstorm knocked down numerous trees from Slidell to Covington. A large pine tree hit their patrol car on 21st Avenue, crushing the top of the vehicle. The other deputy was taken to St. Tammany Parish Hospital with serious injuries.
One deputy killed, one seriously injured by falling tree in funeral procession for another deputy
By Jenny Hurwitz and Charlie Chapple
The New Orleans Times-Picayune
As a miles-long funeral processional snaked through Covington en route to pay respects for fallen Deputy Hilery Mayo on Wednesday, tragedy delivered yet another cruel blow to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office.
A deputy was killed and another was badly injured when a sudden, violent thunderstorm deluged the funeral procession around 4 p.m. and toppled a large pine tree that crushed the deputies' patrol car.
The pair was traveling from the funeral service in Mandeville to Mayo's burial at the Pinecrest Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Covington.
Corp. Linden "Beau" Raimer, 35, of Madisonville, who was driving at the time, was killed when the tree struck his cruiser on West 21st Avenue at Johnson Street, about half a mile from the cemetery, authorities said.
He was immediately transported to St. Tammany Parish Hospital in Covington, where he was pronounced dead.
The passenger, Deputy Marylin "Mary" Mayo, 26, of Slidell (no relation to Hilery Mayo) was also ferried to the hospital and is listed in critical condition with serious spinal injuries, authorities said.
"What can you say," Sheriff Jack Strain said. "This is the second tragic loss in our agency in less than a week . . . We lost two promising young men with bright careers."
The irony of the second tragedy, occurring during the funeral of another deputy, was not lost on Strain, who said his agency will have to bond together to cope with yet another loss.
"As team and group of professionals, we will help each other through this," he said. "Although I know most of us will get on our knees tonight."
Covington Fire Chief Richard Badon said law enforcement officers and firefighters that were first called to the scene were stunned beyond belief.
"All of us are just in a state of shock," said Badon, who called in a crisis counselor to console some of his firefighters.
"We just looked at each other and couldn't believe it was happening."
Covington firefighters said the car apparently was moving slowly in the procession when high winds brought the tree down.
"It was coming down in sheets with mothball-size hail. You couldn't see anything," said David Pittman, chief of the 5th Fire Protection District in Folsom, who was riding in the procession about 20 cars behind the patrol car. Pittman said he heard over the Covington Fire Department radio that a tree had fallen and struck a sheriff's patrol car.
He said he was with department volunteer Kenneth Szalajewski, a paramedic, when the call came over the radio, and the pair decided to go help the deputies.
"When we got there, Covington firemen and police and sheriff's deputies all were all working feverishly to save their brethren," Pittman said. "They were all working as a team, trying to do what they could. You could see the love and concern in their faces."
State trooper Louis Calato, who was in the procession several vehicles in front of Raimer's patrol car, said it had started hailing when the tree fell on the car.
While the incident is under investigation by State Police, Calato said he did not consider it a crash.
"It was an accident," he said. "An act of God."
Dozens of law enforcement officers milled outside the emergency room of St. Tammany Parish Hospital after the accident, awaiting word on Mary Mayo's recovery.
They lined up behind an ambulance, applauded and spoke words of encouragement as she was carried out of the emergency room on a gurney around 6:40 p.m., for transport to Tulane Medical Center.
Mary Mayo has been with the Sheriff's Office since Oct. 7, 2005, and works in the communications division.
Raimer, who worked alongside Hilery Mayo in Criminal Patrol District 4, has been with the department since June 17, 1997.
The latest fatality marks the second time in less than a week that a sheriff's deputy has been killed in a vehicular accident while on duty — and a stunning blow to a group of authorities still reeling from recent loss.
Hilery Mayo, 32, who died Saturday morning when his patrol car struck a tree near Folsom, was the first deputy to be killed on duty in 27 years.
Mayo and Deputy Mark Bott were headed east on Louisiana 40 near Folsom , on their way to investigate a report of a body in the road, when their cruiser veered across oncoming lanes of traffic and rammed into a tree. Mayo died at the scene.
The report about the body proved unfounded, as authorities failed to discover one after scouting the highway later.
Bott, 41, of Franklinton, was injured and underwent surgery to his foot and shoulder following the crash.
The fact that Mayo's funeral was marked by thunderstorms seemed fitting Wednesday, mirroring the tears from mourners that crowded the Church of the King in Mandeville, where his service began around 2 p.m.
Those seated passed around large boxes of tissues, which had been placed on aisle seats for sharing.
His sister, Jennifer Mayo Mooney, spoke of her brother's softer side, recounting his humble upbringing in Covington and his love for his wife and family.
"Our 'Bubba' — that's what we called him — had a tender heart," she said. "He loved deeply and well, and there will never ever pass a day we don't think of him."
Mayo was born in Mobile, Ala., but lived in Covington his entire life. He was the first of his family to graduate from college, his sister said, and he served for a decade as a member of the Sheriff's Office.
A slideshow of pictures from his life — shots from childhood, his wedding day and a hunting trip, among others — flashed on twin screens that flanked the church stage before the service.
The Rev. Glynn Robinson, who officiated, said Mayo's sense of humor was one of many things he'd always remember about the deputy.
"I got pulled over by him twice," he recalled, eliciting a murmur of laughter from the crowd. "It was one of those things — he laughed at me, and I laughed back."
The service was punctuated by claps of thunder and the steady drum of rain on the roof. The burial in Covington was delayed by a blinding thunderstorm so severe that it forced funeralgoers inside, where they waited out the storm under shelter.
Within an hour, the sun had reemerged. Mourners slogged through a marsh of puddles and mud to reach the gravesite and stood in stark silence as pallbearers transferred the flag-draped casket to its resting place.
The sound of trumpets playing "Taps" signaled the end of Thursday's funeral — and the start of yet another round of grieving for many of the attendees encircling the deputy's fresh grave.
Copyright 2007 The New Orleans Times-Picayune