Thousands expected for trooper’s funeral Thursday

EVERETT — Thousands of people are expected to attend a funeral for Washington State Patrol trooper Sean O’Connell.

The funeral is planned for 1 p.m. Thursday at Comcast Arena in Everett.

Services are being coordinated by a specialty team of police officers from around the region with experience in planning officers’ funerals. The team is working out of Marysville.

O’Connell, 38, was killed Friday night after his motorcycle was in a collision with a box truck at the intersection of Fir Island Road and Greenview Road in Conway in Skagit County.

O’Connell had been detailed to work traffic control related to the closure of I-5 after the Skagit River bridge collapse.

He had been with the Patrol for 16 years. He had two young children.

His family has asked for privacy.

Police aren’t releasing additional details about the collision while the investigation is under way, patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said Monday.

Their focus now is on the family, the funeral planning and the grief, he said.

The investigation will be handled by the agency’s Major Accident Investigation Team, made up of its most experienced collision detectives.

Meanwhile, an official remembrance area for O’Connell was being moved Monday from the crash site to the State Patrol’s regional headquarters at 2700 116th Street NE, Marysville. A canopy was being constructed to keep items dry.

It is not safe for people to stop at the crash site, Calkins said.

“We’ve already had one person lost at the scene,” he said. “We don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”

A motorcade procession on Sunday carried O’Connell’s body from a Skagit Valley hospital to a north Everett funeral home.

The funeral is expected to feature another procession as well, Calkins said. Police hope to release route details in advance for people who want to honor the trooper along the way.

Hundreds of people watched Sunday’s procession down I-5 through Skagit and Snohomish counties.

“The community response has been wonderful,” Calkins said. “During the motorcade yesterday, it was just terrific to see people on overpasses and along the street.”

The model for planning police funerals is based on how emergency crews manage disaster responses, said Monroe police Sgt. Brian Johnston, who’s also president of the Behind The Badge Foundation, which helps with law enforcement funerals.

They have to plan an event the size of a concert within about a week, he said. Their priorities are honoring the lost officer and the wishes of the officer’s family.

The funeral planning team feels a moral obligation to honor the family and the police traditions, Johnston said.

“We are mixing law enforcement, paramilitary services, along with the personal side of who Sean was and what he represented to his family, and we’re doing it in a very public way,” he said.

The team also will be needed to help with travel and hotel accommodations for O’Connell’s family, he said. Relatives of lost officers often need to come in from around the country.

During the funeral, a group of officers are assigned to protect the family, Johnston said.

The family arrives at the venue hours before the service starts. Officers will make sure they are warm and fed, and run errands if they need anything else.

“Everything is cold in this situation, and everything is a blur for the family,” he said. “This is a traumatic event even in and of itself.”

Snohomish County’s most recent law enforcement funeral was in 2011 for Jayme Biendl, the Monroe corrections officer who was slain at her post.

Thousands of people attended a public service at Comcast Arena. Police officers, corrections officers and firefighters from around the state came to mourn.

On Monday, state legislators announced plans to introduce resolutions in favor of renaming the new Skagit River Bridge in honor of O’Connell.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

Donations accepted

People can donate to the O’Connell family through the Washington State Patrol Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 7544, Olympia, WA 98507. The family is asking folks who want to send flowers to instead donate to the Behind The Badge Foundation or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

A covered area where flowers and notes can be left in O’Connell’s honor has been set up at the patrol’s regional headquarters at 2700 116th Street NE, Marysville. People are asked not to stop at the collision scene in Skagit County.

The State Patrol asks for Twitter posts about O’Connell to feature the memorial tag #sean1076.

The hashtag features O’Connell’s first name and his badge number, which will be retired after his funeral.

Drivers are asked to follow state-sanctioned detours around the I-5 closure in Skagit County. Other roads are not built to handle the congestion and weight of detour traffic.

Anyone who saw the accident or heard anything may call detectives at 360-805-1192 or 360-805-1194.

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