Wednesday, March 21, 2007

In Memory Of...

USFS File Photo.

In memory of Shane Wyrsch. A devoted United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, husband, father and friend.

Shane was killed two nights ago (March 19, 2007) while driving home on Highway 410 just outside of Buckley, Washington.

He was killed by a drunk driver with a suspended driver's license. A person who should never have been on the road!

Shane and I were friends, fellow "timber cops". Quite often our professional paths would merge on "assignments, details" that necessitated the U.S. Forest Service and State of Washington's joint participation in law enforcement functions on state and federal lands. Many of these functions lasted weeks without interruption on the hottest, muggiest or the coldest, wettest days of the year.

We'd chase "bad guys" around in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest who were doing things not allowed by law on public lands and we'd have a ball doing it. Shane was always up beat, tireless, tenacious and focused.

I first met Shane when he attended a man tracking course I was co-teaching with David Scott Donelan in the mountains of Morton, Washington. I brought my son, Justin along with me to help teach.

Shane immediately hit it off with him. He was impressed by Justin's youth coupled with his knowledge of the outdoors and his overall wilderness abilities. Over the years when I'd meet with Shane... when we'd call one another to share some information or simply to check up on one another he'd always ask about Justin. Not about "your son" but about "Justin".

When he learned from me that Justin was being deployed to the Middle East shortly after 911 he shared his concern. He was relieved when I told him Justin was "out" of the military. Shane was always trying to recruit Justin (through me) into the United States Forest Service as a Law Enforcement Officer... not a bad idea.

Shane was a friend. He was a fellow cop and he was always there if I needed him for anything or needed information.


I drove past the accident site yesterday while I headed north to meet with some folks. In fact, after the meeting I was going to see if Shane was available for a visit, a brief chat... being as I was in his area.

I didn't know it was Shane's accident site when I drove through... I just knew it was the site of a recent, serious accident.

You can tell. There's gouges in the pavement, reference points painted on the road's surface by the investigators, skid marks, shards of glass, un-collected plastic, chrome... spent flares. I remember seeing the remnants of the flare pattern that suggested the Highway was blocked for a period of time while the investigation was completed.

I remember seeing those spent flares and thinking to myself that the accident must have been "pretty serious". I hoped for the best for those who were involved, not knowing who they might have been at the time.

When I arrived at where I was driving to I was told by another good friend that Shane had been killed "...last night. A drunk ran into his truck on the highway outside of Buckley."

I remember hearing Chuck tell me... remember how he said it. Almost not believing what he was saying.

I didn't at first. It didn't register. I asked him "Shane who?"

"Shane Wyrsch, the Forest Service officer".

Then it all came together. Shane, the accident site, highway 410, Buckley, drunk driver, flares... serious accident. It all made sense!

But didn't. It never will make sense! Never!

Here's the story as told by King 5 News:

U.S. Forest Service officer killed in crash
06:16 PM PDT on Tuesday, March 20, 2007

"BUCKLEY, Wash. – A suspected drunk driver involved in a horrific crash that killed a respected law enforcement officer should never have been on the road.

The Washington State Patrol says U.S. Forest Service Officer Shane Wyrsch was driving home on Highway 410 near Buckley Monday night when a pickup crossed the center line and slammed into him head-on. Witnesses say the man who hit Wyrsch was driving very erratically. Troopers say he was likely drunk, and driving with a suspended license.

All that's left of Shane Wyrch's truck is a mangled pile of metal.

Shayne Wyrsch was killed in a head-on crash near Buckley Monday night.
The 16-year veteran patrolled the Mount Baker Snoqualmie National Forest and the communities nearby.

"Each and every one is like a brother, and losing Shane will be very similar to losing a family member," says Enumclaw Police Officer Don Banner.

"He lived in this community and anything he could do to further make it a good place to live, he never hesitated."

Wyrsch died Tuesday morning, leaving behind a wife, two children and countless colleagues.

A spokesperson says the entire U.S. Forest Service family is devastated by Wyrsch's passing. The State Patrol plans to investigate this as a vehicular homicide."


I HATE drunk drivers!

You're going to be missed! Rest in peace Shane.


Mikki D said...

Dennis - I am so sorry for your loss; the USFS lost a great man to a stupid drunk driver. How unjust, unfair, un-real. Shane was a great instructor to all us FPO's - and we will miss him very much!!

I am so sorry.
God-Speed, Shane. You deserved a much longer life and you deserved to be a husband, father, and grandfather. You parents, wife and kids deserved a son, husband, and daddy.

I really hope the drunk that did this knows who he took from the world.

Thoughts and prayers -

Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to Shane's family and friends. I went to college with Shane. I cry when I think of the impact he had on my life and I am forever greatful that I had the honor of knowing hime. He was a great man! I pray that his wife and kids will be comforted with the love of God during this very difficult time. And thank you to Shane for the life lessons you taught me. I will never forget you.

Cathy said...

D.H. I'm having problems leaving a comment. Not sure why but, I leave a comment and check back and it's gone. Let's see if this one sticks.

I'm terribly sorry about your friend Shane. Senseless tragedies like this are so hard to wrap your brain around.

It's horible that one person's bad choice can cause so much grief and loss. Even sadder is the fact that there is no punishment that could ever cause the drunk to feel the same amount of grief and loss that Shane's family does.

I heard on the news this morning that a judge in Florida was making a man who got drunk and killed a 17 year old girl, hang a large photo of the girl in his home. He wanted the man to have to look at the face of the life he took every day for the rest of his life.

Fine punishment if you are dealing with someone with a conscience. It falls short though if you are dealing with someone who can put their need for a drink before the safety of others.

I hope that Shane's family is able to stay strong and that they are surrounded by God's Grace.

Dennis said...

Hi Cathy,

Thanks for your comments. I'd love to see a judge in Washington follow the Florida judge's lead (at least) but I doubt that'll happen.

I was a friend of Shane's and only knew of his family through our discussions in the field while we worked details together. I never met his wife Zoe or his two kids but I always felt like I knew them.

Shane is missed by his family, friends, associates and his community. He had a pretty broad affect around here.

Again, thanks. All we can do from here is remember and move on.