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Deputy Dies in Motorcycle Accident

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July 25, 2003

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Deputy Dies in Motorcycle Accident

Officer Down: Steve Garfat - [Oakland County, Michigan]

Flags are at half-staff at the Oakland County Sheriff's Department after a longtime deputy died Thursday in a traffic accident while taking a trip to Canada.

Deputy Stephen Garfat was both well known and well liked within the sheriff's department, where he served as a deputy since 1987.

The popular sheriff's deputy died Thursday afternoon after colliding with a van on Highway 21 just north of Bayfield in Ontario. According to Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Mr. Garfat was riding a motorcycle with his wife, Constance, while taking a couple days off for a short vacation.

The 48-year-old deputy died, and his wife was fighting for her life after suffering life-threatening injuries. She was airlifted to a hospital in London, Ontario.

"He was a heckuva a deputy and will be sorely missed by not only his family but the Oakland County Sheriff's family and the Oakland County community at large," Bouchard said, stunned like the rest of the department.

"We're in the business where we see life and death tragedies every day," the sheriff said. "Sometimes you think it will never happen to you or your people when in this business. It still shocks you. It's a punch in the stomach."

He said the accident occurred when a van from Michigan approaching Mr. Garfat swerved into his lane because they were sightseeing, forcing the motorcycle to slide into and under the van.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Mr. Garfat is survived by two sons, both under 18.

Mr. Garfat worked most recently in the Southeastern Oakland Crime Suppression Task Force and, before that, in various substations.

Sheriff Sgt. Jane Boudreau worked with Mr. Garfat out of the department's substation in Commerce Township.

"He was a good cop," Boudreau said. "If ever you got to work with Steve, you were glad. He was always a lot of fun."

Boudreau said Mr. Garfat had a knack for getting involved in unusual cases.

In 1998, the Sheriff's Department honored Mr. Garfat and Deputy Thomas Kangas for saving the life of fellow Deputy Joe Brian, who fell through the ice of White Lake while chasing a suspect. Mr. Garfat spotted a rope tied between a dock and a tree and used his knife to cut it. He and Kangas pulled Brian out of the chilly waters.

"Steve was always catching bad guys, but he always had a good story to go with it, too," Boudreau said.

In January 2001, a prisoner freed himself from his handcuffs and eventually hijacked a sheriff's transport van that was taking him to a court date in Rochester Hills. As part of a regionwide search, Mr. Garfat spotted the vehicle in Detroit and chased it to Wyoming and McNichols where the van crashed. He then chased the man on foot and arrested him.

"He was a really good man and a good deputy," Bouchard said. "He's done some very good work."

(Staff writer John Wisely contributed to this story.)

July 25 2003

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