|5/23/03 - |
ODESSA, Mo. - A Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper making a traffic stop was killed early Thursday when his car was rear-ended by a truck and he became trapped inside the burning vehicle.
Patrol spokesman Lt. Tim Hull identified the trooper as Michael Newton, 25, who was assigned to Troop A in the Kansas City suburb of Lee's Summit.
Hull said Newton's 2003 Crown Victoria burst into flames after it was hit about 7 a.m. by a truck towing a trailer on Interstate 70 near Odessa. The truck traveled onto the shoulder where Newton's car was parked, Hull said.
The driver of the vehicle Newton had stopped was sitting in the patrol vehicle with him when it was struck. The passenger was pulled from the patrol car through the passenger window by witnesses, the patrol said.
The passenger was flown to University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics in Columbia with third-degree burns covering 40 percent of his body, authorities said. The driver of the truck was taken by ambulance to a hospital in Lexington.
Police departments have alleged the Crown Victoria is prone to catch fire when struck from the rear at high speed. At least a dozen other officers in the country have been killed in fiery crashes in Crown Victorias since 1983. But Missouri patrol officials said Newton's car was a 2003 model and had new gas-tank modifications in place.
Passionate Trooper, Husband Remembered
The life of highway patrol trooper Michael L. Newton was cut tragically short, but he was still able to marry the woman he loved and join the profession he loved, minister Larry Paris said at the trooper's funeral Monday.
Paris, who married Newton and his wife, Shonnie, six years ago, said Newton's love for his wife and attaining his dream job were tremendous accomplishments.
Newton, 25, a native of Newburg, was killed Thursday when a pickup truck collided with his stopped patrol car on the shoulder of Interstate 70 about a mile west of Higginsville in western Missouri.
Hundreds of law enforcement officers attended the memorial at Newton's hometown high school in their blue dress uniforms, including some from as far away as Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Gov. Bob Holden also spoke at the memorial, saying Missouri was "burying one of its finest."
But much of the service was directed toward Newton's wife and the couple's two sons, Tyler and Devon. Several speakers pledged their support for the family after the sudden death of the man many knew as "Mikey."
"Every once in a while a person comes along who is so passionate about what they believe in... Mike was one of those individuals," Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Nate Brown said.
Patrol Sgt. Chip Drenon, who was Newton's zone sergeant, told Shonnie Newton she should bring her two young sons by the Troop A headquarters when they're older.
"Maybe we'll give them a ride in a fully marked patrol car and turn on the sirens," he said. "We'll tell them how great their daddy was."
Drenon first met the boys' father when he was a rookie patrolman and then watched Newton grow as a trooper.
"He greeted me with this big, goofy grin ... I thought, 'Oh my, will this guy ever make a trooper?'" Drenon said.
Drenon said the goofy-grinning rookie turned into "an outstanding officer."
Drenon said Newton was somewhat competitive. In his goals for this year, Newton wrote that he wanted to make more driving while intoxicated arrests than his zone sergeant and more traffic arrests than the combined total of his supervisors — which Newton joked might not be an improvement.
Drenon then sang "Amazing Grace," a song he said helped him cope after his daughter died suddenly.
Chad Flanigan, who was in the same recruitment class as Newton, said tragedies like Newton's are an unfortunate part of the profession.
"This is our job," Flanigan said. "Mike did his job. He gave the ultimate sacrifice. We look at him as a hero."