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Ilion, N.Y. Officer Killed in Crash; Other Driver Faces Charges

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July 11, 2004

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Ilion, N.Y. Officer Killed in Crash; Other Driver Faces Charges

Officer Down: Ryan Parks - [Ilion, New York]

By Tim Blydenburgh and Cecilia Le, The Observer-Dispatch (Utica, N.Y.)

ILION, New York -- Through his job as a police officer and his many other interests -- from helping kids to serving up meals -- Ryan Parks was a visible man in this Herkimer County village.

Now the community is dealing with sadness and disbelief -- Parks is gone.

He was killed over the weekend in Litchfield after the motorcycle he was riding was struck by a car whose driver was intoxicated, state police said. The driver, Deborah E. Rogers, 41, of Richfield Springs, did not have a license because of multiple drinking-and-driving convictions during the 1990s, state Department of Motor Vehicles records show.

While off duty, Parks, 35, a father of two with another on the way, was killed Saturday afternoon.

A car driven by Rogers failed to stop for a stop sign on Albany Road, swerved into Parks' lane and hit his cycle at about 3:45 p.m., state police in Herkimer said.

Rogers, of McKoons Road, was charged with first-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated and aggravated unlicensed operation -- all felonies, troopers said.

The DWI charge is a felony because Rogers had two previous convictions for driving while intoxicated, in 1995 and 1999, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

DMV records show Rogers also was convicted of driving while ability impaired in early 1995. Her license was suspended at that time, then later revoked because of subsequent drinking-and-driving convictions, DMV records show.

After her arraignment Saturday, Rogers was sent to the Herkimer County jail in lieu of $50,000 bail and will answer the charges in Litchfield Town Court Tuesday night.

While the court system will decide Rogers' fate, Ilion officials and residents remained stunned that Parks, someone so active in the community, has died.

Parks had always wanted to be a police officer, said his mother, Merry Ann Wright.

"He would just give anybody the shirt off his back," she said. "If you asked him for something, he'd drop anything he was doing and be there."

Parks was a devoted father and outdoorsman who loved boating, snowmobiling and his motorcycle.

"Ryan lived life a little on the edge," said his stepfather, Larry Wright. "He was a guy who absolutely loved life and lived it to the end. People just gravitated around him."

It was quiet Sunday morning at the Ilion police station, offering plenty of time to reflect on a comrade now gone. Sgt. Laurie DeVaul, trying to keep her composure, said everybody loved Parks -- not only the 18 other officers and dispatchers in the police station, but many in the local schools and community.

"He had a good heart. He was very good with children," DeVaul said. "He gave a lot of his time to community causes."

Parks grew up in Herkimer and was a police officer in Dolgeville before coming to Ilion about 10 years ago. Parks retained a great sense of humor, DeVaul said.

He worked the road patrol in this village of about 8,600 and was a bicycle patrol officer and had been an anti-drug DARE officer in local schools. Parks's interest in the welfare of children led him to run for the Herkimer Board of Education in 1998, where he lived at the time. He was unsuccessful.

"He was always ready to come in and give somebody a hand," DeVaul said.

Parks was an armorer, an officer who maintained the police force's weapons, DeVaul said. He was looking forward to more training in the coming weeks, she said.

Parks and his second wife Leigh Ann were well-known caterers, cooking for many organizations. He had two children from a previous marriage; a third with Leigh Ann is on the way.

Parks helped work on a 2002 benefit for A.J. Varlaro, a fellow officer battling cancer. "A.J. Varlaro Appreciation Day" raised more than $6,000 to cover expenses not covered by Varlaro's insurance.

Village Clerk/Treasurer Gale Hatch said Parks was dependable -- "a terrific guy who did a lot for the community."

The Village Board will meet tonight and will in some way remember Parks, Hatch said.

"It's a great loss," she said.

Mayor John Gilmartin said village officials are devastated and are sympathizing with Parks's family.

"I can't convey how sad I feel about it. All you can do is keep him in your prayers," Gilmartin said.

Calling hours for Parks are 3 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Enea Funeral Home between Ilion and Frankfort. The funeral time has yet to be determined.

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