San Luis Obispo County

CHP Officer Deaths Near Fresno Hits Close to Home

Two Santa Maria CHP officers drowned in 1998 accident.

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - Flags are flying at half-staff at California Highway Patrol offices and other state government offices in honor of CHP officers Juan Gonzales and Brian Law who were killed on-duty early Monday morning near Fresno.

The two officers were responding to a traffic collision on Highway 99 when they swerved to avoid people and vehicles on the highway, lost control of the patrol car, hit a guardrail and road sign and flipped over.

"With the Highway Patrol the majority of things we deal with deal with traffic", says San Luis Obispo County CHP Officer Danny Maher, "most of our officers are killed from traffic related incidents more than firearms or any other incident you can think of."

State Highway 166 is now the "Irvine and Stovall Memorial Highway" in honor of two CHP officers who were killed on duty in a traffic accident 16 years ago.

CHP Officers Rick Stovall and Britt Irvine were responding to a call for help east of Santa Maria when the portion of Highway 166 they were driving on was washed away by a storm-swollen Cuyama River.

Their CHP cruiser plunged off the highway into the raging river waters and both officers drowned.

CHP officers and other law enforcement agency personnel are wearing black ribbons over their badges as a traditional show of solidarity with their fallen colleagues.

"We go through the Academy together, we work together and we got through different offices together", Officer Maher says, "we're all such a close knit family that when one of us gets injured we all feel the same pain that they do and when one of us goes down we all feel it."

Services for the two fallen CHP officers near Fresno have not yet been announced.

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