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NY state trooper dies in collision

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April 23, 2006

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NY state trooper dies in collision

Officer Down: Craig J. Todeschini - [Pompey Hill , New York]

Biographical Info

Age: 25

Additional Info: Trooper Craig J. Todeschini served with the New York State Police for more than a three years.

Incident Details

Cause of Death: Todeschini was killed in an automobile accident while pursuing a motorcycle.

Date of Incident: April 23, 2006

Copyright 2006 Post-Standard
All Rights Reserved.



A 25-year-old state police trooper whose wife is expecting the couple's first child in a month was killed Sunday evening in the hamlet of Pompey Hill while pursuing a speeding motorcyclist.

Trooper Craig J. Todeschini, of Geddes, crashed head-on into a tree shortly before 6 p.m. at the southwest corner of Route 91 and Cherry Street, said Capt. Jeffrey Raub, Zone 2 commander in Onondaga County.

Raub said Todeschini was responding to a call at 5:55 p.m. and was driving north on Route 91 when a soutbound motorcycle - possibly going more than 100 mph - passed him.

Todeschini, a 1999 graduate of West Genesee High School and the son of a retired Geddes police sergeant, turned his Chevy Tahoe around and radioed the Onondaga County 911 center that he intended to pursue the motorcycle.

With his lights and siren on, Todeschini followed for about 2 miles - for less than a few minutes - before losing control and crashing into a tree next to the house at 7364 Cherry St., Raub said.

William Blanck, 51, of Pompey-Center Road said he was putting gas in his car at the Citgo station on Route 20 at Route 91 when he heard a siren approaching. He saw the motorcycle come into the hamlet and toward the gas station, "like a bat out of hell" through the 30 mph zone.

The motorcycle slowed just slightly as it passed through the blinking red light at the intersection and continued south on Route 91, Blanck said.

About the same moment the motorcycle crossed Route 20 he heard the trooper's SUV crash, he said.

Blanck said he paid for his gas and ran to the scene where the Pompey Hill Fire Department rescue crews had already arrived and were covering the vehicle with tarps.

State police had not located the motorcycle Sunday night.

Raub described it as a "crotch rocket" style motorcycle, a name derived from the way the rider sits on the bike and from the incredible speed and acceleration the bikes have.

It is up to each trooper's discretion whether to pursue motorcycles or other vehicles, said Trooper Jack Keller Jr. In deciding whether to pursue a vehicle, troopers are trained to evaluate the reason for the pursuit, the weather conditions and the risk to others, Keller said.

Anyone with information about the driver and the motorcycle may contact state police at 455-2826, said Keller.

Pompey Supervisor Carole Marsh said there have been problems with motorcycles speeding in her community in the last few years. She said sometimes groups of riders will do wheelies on Routes 20 and 91 and Sweet and Henneberry roads.

Due to motorcycles and other vehicles speeding in those areas, Marsh said the town board budgeted $15,000 for extra sheriff patrols last year.

"We've had a number of fatalities over the years, it's very dangerous for the residents," Marsh said. "My heart goes out to this family and I'm sure every resident of this town feels the same way."

Raub said Todeschini had been a trooper for 31/2 years. He'd worked at the Hastings barracks in Oswego County until he was transferred to LaFayette.

Raub called him a leader.

"I had the pleasure of working with him for over a year. He was a trooper's trooper," Raub said. "He was an honorable individual, who took his job seriously."

Todeschini was a former member of the Pompey Hill Fire Department and was a current member of the Solvay Fire Department, where he was made a lieutenant in 2005, according to published reports.

The City of Syracuse and Fairmount fire departments covered the Solvay department's calls Sunday night.

"He was a great guy. He'll do anything for you," said Jason Mallore, second assistant chief of the Fairmount department. He and seven other volunteers from Fairmount were at the Solvay station and promised to do "whatever they need" for the Solvay department.

Someone draped a black cloth across the Solvay department's brick and marble sign. Someone left two potted lilies near the sign. A flag flew at half-staff.

Todeschini came from a law enforcement family: His father, James, retired as a Geddes police sergeant in 1997.

State Police Superintendent Wayne E. Bennett was brought by helicopter to the scene of the crash and then went to the home of Todeschini's wife, Kristi, also a West Genesee graduate.

State police closed a block of the southbound lanes of Route 91 and Cherry Street to traffic Sunday evening as they photographed the crash scene and took measurements.

Pompey Hill firefighters had to use the Jaws of Life to free the trooper's body from the SUV.

About 10:25 p.m., Todeschini's body was put into an ambulance. About 30 volunteer firefighters and troopers stood in a line on Route 91 as the ambulance slowly rolled past with several state police vehicles escorting it. Jennie Andrews and Tim Chrysler, two Pompey Hill fire department members, held an American flag in the line.

En route to Syracuse, dozens of law enforcement and fire department vehicles from across Onondaga County joined the caravan. Todeschini's body was taken to the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's Office.

"The state police is all in a state of grief for our loss, his wife's loss and his parents' loss," Raub said.

Trooper deaths

Trooper Craig J. Todeschini was the first trooper from Troop D to be killed in the line of duty since 1978. Since 1920, 19 officers from Troop D - which covers Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, and Oswego counties - have been killed:

Trooper James A. Skiff, 39, died May 25, 1920, in Ogdensburg. He was the passenger on a motorcycle that collided with a trolley car.

Trooper Phillip E. Gonterman, 24, died Sept. 26. 1925, when his motorcycle struck a tree during a high-speed chase in the village of Pulaski. He was chasing some auto thieves, swerved to miss a car coming from a side street and crashed into a tree at the intersection.

Troopers Ernest F. Rudd, 30, of Rome, and Thomas J. Scanlon, 25 of Hamilton, died Oct. 5, 1925, when their police car was struck by a train outside of Geneva. Rudd, Scanlon and a third trooper, John W. Brockman, were stationed at Waterloo and were returning from a court appearance in Canandaigua. Brockman, who was driving, may have mistaken the lights of the train for another car. The train was derailed but none of the passengers were hurt.

Trooper Charles M. McGinn, 25, died June 20, 1927, from injuries suffered in an accident June 18 in the village of Remsen. His motorcycle collided with a car coming out of a driveway. He and his partner were responding to a call from the Remsen substation, where both were on patrol.

Sgt. Harry J. Wheeler, 31, died July 15, 1927, when his motorcycle skidded on the wet pavement and he hit his head on an underpass near Oneida. He may have been crowded off the road by another vehicle. He had been on highway patrol duty in the Sherrill area and was on his way back to the barracks.

Lt. Walter Croasdale, 34, died Aug. 22, 1927, from injuries sustained when his car ran into an unlit construction vehicle left in middle of the road near LaFayette at night. He was returning from the Cortland Fair, where he was in charge of the Rough Riders performing there.

Lt. Tremain M. Hughes, 35, and Cpl. Theophilius Gaines, 32, died Jan. 15, 1932, in an airplane crash near Cazenovia. Corporal Gaines was conducting routine inspections of troop communications stations and was being transported by an airplane piloted by Hughes.

Trooper Raymond A. Plunkett, 27, died Jan. 5, 1934, from injuries suffered in a car crash the day before. He was headed to the Oneida barracks for roll call when the car he was driving skidded on the icy pavement and crashed into a telephone pole.

Trooper Kenneth N. Devitt, 28, died Feb. 19, 1937, at his home in Sherrill from complications from injuries sustained when his motorcycle was struck by a motorist near the Canastota Airport on Aug. 21, 1931.

Sgt. Joseph L. Fitzpatrick, 35, died Nov. 17, 1937, when his car rolled down an embankment just west of Morrisville. He had been on 24-hour patrol without sleep during the widespread search for three escaped prisoners from Jamesville penitentiary.

Trooper Robert A. Moore, 27, died July 29, 1941, during a high-speed chase when his motorcycle crashed into an automobile waiting to turn into the Onondaga Golf and Country Club.

Trooper Gerald T. McHugh, 26, died May 25, 1956, when his patrol car crashed into two utility poles near New Hartford. He may have been chasing a speeder.

Sgt. Richard A. Pallas, Jr., 34, died Aug. 31, 1967, when his automobile collided with another vehicle at an intersection in downtown Utica.

Trooper William G. Doyle, 27, was shot to death Dec. 14, 1967, by two men in a stolen car near Parish. He was conducting vehicle and traffic stops when two men who had escaped from a mental institution shot him.

Trooper John G. George, 36, died March 1, 1970, from carbon monoxide poisoning. He and his partner had backed into a snow bank observing traffic near Herkimer, not realizing that the snow blocked the exhaust. His partner was hospitalized.

Zone Sgt. Gerald DeGroot, 48, died June 24, 1978, in a vehicle accident. He was en route to his home after completing his shift at the Watertown state police substation when his vehicle was hit head-on by another vehicle. 

John Mariani and Ngoc Huynh contributed to this report.

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