Troopers escort fallen colleague’s kids on first day

LAKE STEVENS — Five Washington State Patrol troopers followed on motorcycles as the big yellow bus chugged along Lake Stevens’ streets.

Sean O’Connell wasn’t there on Wednesday, the first day of school, to see his daughter begin kindergarten and his son start second grade. So his buddies did it for him.

O’Connell, 38, died May 31 in an on-duty motorcycle crash. He had been a trooper for 16 years. The day he died, he was working traffic control related to the Skagit River bridge collapse.

O’Connell adored his children. They were his joy. At the trooper’s memorial service in June, 2,200 people saw a slideshow showing O’Connell holding his children, smiling, making goofy faces — photo after photo, each full of a father’s love.

“It was Sean I looked to for finding strength and being a good dad,” his older brother Fran O’Connell told the crowd.

Knowing their friend wouldn’t have missed the first day of school, O’Connell’s fellow motorcycle troopers stepped in, riding behind the bus to school. They walked the kids to class. O’Connell’s wife snapped pictures, making new memories for a different life.

The troopers also stopped to take pictures with other children at the school.

“Sean was so much a part of that school,” Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said. “Sean would be so very, very proud.”

Lovick, a retired state trooper, was O’Connell’s sergeant for six years. He thought of the trooper as a son.

“That’s the State Patrol. That’s the family Sean had. That’s the family that continues on,” Lovick said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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