Deputy’s death took family by surprise

STANWOOD – Torrey Dringman barely broke a sweat as he led his sons’ Boy Scout troop on a 10-mile bike ride through Stanwood last summer.

Twelve hours later, the 6-foot-2-inch, 255-pound Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy collapsed. In less than three days, he was dead.

Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy Torrey Dringman, 43, died June 17 of a bacterial infection. This is one of his family’s favorite photos of him at Glacier Peak Wilderness Area in September 1998.

“He’d been hit three times by drunken drivers, and we’d talked about the possibility he could die during the line of duty,” said his wife, Laura Dringman. “I never would have dreamed something like this could happen.”

Doctors blamed a streptococcal A infection. Nine months after her husband’s death, Laura Dringman is still struggling to understand how and why the bacteria killed him last year.

Torrey Dringman awoke early June 15 with a fever and headache. By the time he reached Providence Everett Medical Center, he had a temperature of 104 degrees.

“The doctors didn’t know what was wrong,” Laura Dringman said. “But they were wonderful. They did everything they possibly could.”

Stretococcalp A infections can range from a mild skin infection or sore throat to severe, life-threatening conditions such as toxic shock syndrome (multiple organ failure), according to the National Institutes of Health.

Health experts estimate that more than 10 million mild infections occur every year. Most are skin or throat infections.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4,844 cases of severe group A streptococcal disease were reported in 2003.

She was alone with her husband when she noticed two dark spots on his body, where he’d gotten scratched while cutting trees at his parent’s house.

Doctors diagnosed the spots as Fournier’s gangrene, she said.

Surgeons removed the spots about 10:30 p.m. Laura Dringman prayed that would help her husband survive.

Torrey Dringman came out of surgery two hours later. Shortly before 4 a.m. June 16, he went into cardiac arrest.

“I knew it was very serious,” she said. “I watched his condition deteriorate, and I knew he wasn’t going to make it.”

By early morning, her husband’s kidneys and liver were failing. Their sons Taylor, 14, and Trevor, 12, came to say goodbye.

“Torrey tried to talk. He tried to say, ‘I love you,’” Laura Dringman said.

The morning of June 17, the doctors told her that her husband’s organs had shut down.

“Outside his window was the mountains he loved,” she said. “I knew when he died, because I literally saw my husband’s smile as he walked up the mountain and said, ‘I’ll see you.’

“He always said that if he died before me, he’d be up in God’s country.”

Laura Dringman didn’t learn the exact cause of her husband’s death until months later.

Worried about herself and her children, a biohazard company removed bedding and other items from their Stanwood home. Concerns about his illness were quickly eclipsed by grief.

“I was 19 and he was 20 when we met at Central Washington University,” she said. “We’d been married for just shy of 21 years when he died.”

Torrey Dringman was a devoted father, Laura Dringman said, often taking Taylor and Trevor on hunting and biking trips.

The night before he was hospitalized, he tucked Trevor in bed, then squirted him with a can of pink silly string.

“Torrey had the biggest smile on his face,” Laura Dringman said.

Her husband, an Eagle Scout, also advised high school and college-age scouts from five counties in the Order of the Arrow. The year before his death, he received the prestigious Silver Beaver award.

At Lakewood High School, he worked off-duty providing security for games and dances. Students say they tried to coax him onto the dance floor, but the deputy kept his love of disco to himself.

Before he died, Torrey Dringman, a 13-year sheriff’s office veteran, was part of the team providing security for Community Transit.

Laura Dringman now uses the name Stephanie, her late husband’s favorite name for a girl. In January, she married deputy Greg Rasar, one of her first husband’s closest friends.

“It wasn’t something either of us expected,” she said. “God works in mysterious ways.”

The sheriff’s office retired Torrey Dringman’s badge number. Photos of the deputy will soon be added to the sheriff’s office’s Sgt. Jim Kinard room.

“I never really knew until after Torrey died how many people he’d touched,” Laura Dringman said.

Dringman has set up a leadership fund in memory of her first husband through the Mount Baker Council of Boy Scouts of America. For more information, call 425-388-0380.

Reporter Katherine Schiffner: 425-339-3436 or

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