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WPPD Motor Officer Killed in Crash

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October 17, 2003

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WPPD Motor Officer Killed in Crash

Officer Down: Thomas Morash - [West Palm Beach , Florida]

Motorcycle officer dies after colliding with car

By Robert Eckhart
Staff Writer
Posted October 18 2003

WEST PALM BEACH · Police Officer Thomas Morash was rumbling down South Dixie Highway on his Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle when an unlicensed driver pulled into his path Friday afternoon, authorities said.

Morash and the 1,000-pound cycle hit the other vehicle, a Honda Civic, so hard that the car spun almost 45 degrees before coming to rest in the middle of the intersection.

The 33-year-old officer was pronounced dead at St. Mary's Medical Center and left behind his wife, Andrea, his 8-year-old daughter, Tatyana, his parents and six siblings.

"It's a devastation. You've got a young officer with a family, and he lost his life in the service of the public," said Police Chief Ric Bradshaw.
More than an hour after Morash's body was removed from the crash scene, officers wiped tears from their eyes as they surveyed the wreckage at the Roseland Drive intersection: Morash's boots and helmet lay in the street along with chrome pieces of the cycle, his radar gun and a booklet of traffic tickets.

The seven-year veteran was the first West Palm Beach officer to die in the line of duty since 1988, when Officer Brian Chappell was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop.

The driver of the Honda, Sonia Maria Ortiz, 24, of West Palm Beach was arrested on a charge of driving without a license and causing a fatal accident. She had no apparent injuries and stood sobbing as more than a dozen police and state troopers clustered around the crash scene.

Highway Patrol spokesman Pat Santangelo said investigators couldn't tell whether Morash had time to hit the brakes before the collision. Investigators noted a 25-foot skid mark, but weren't sure it came from Morash's motorcycle, Santangelo said.

Morash's family members could not be reached for comment, but co-workers described him as quiet and hardworking.

"He was a nice guy who always tried his best," said Detective Wendy Detter, one of Morash's classmates at the Palm Beach Community College police academy.

Morash, a native of New York, was the sixth child in a family of seven, said Detter, who spoke with his brother on Friday night. After he got a job with West Palm Beach in 1996, Morash and his wife built a house in Port St. Lucie. The couple were planning to have a second child soon, Detter said.

In his first year on the job, Morash's bosses credited him with saving a 2-month-old infant. The baby had a tracheotomy and was suffocating because a respirator tube disconnected.

Morash was an officer in the department's community-policing division before he switched to the motorcycle division in August 2002.

"Everybody grew to like him," said Vince Cicchini, head of security at Palm Beach Mall, where Morash worked. "He always came on positive and happy."

"I wanted to steal him," said Capt. Laurie Van Deusen, commander of the department's detective division. She said she asked Morash twice to put his name in for a detective job. Morash politely declined, saying he was happy with the motorcycle patrol unit.

"He was an outstanding officer, always ready to take a call, always had a smile on his face," Bradshaw said. "You wish you had 20 or 30 officers just like him."

Robert Eckhart can be reached at rweckhart@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6604.

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Copyright © 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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