Sergeant Franco Aguilar Sevier County Sheriff’s Office Utah

Photograph: Sergeant Franco Aguilar Patch image: Sevier County Sheriff's Office, Utah

Sergeant Franco Aguilar
Sevier County Sheriff’s Office

End of Watch: Thursday, April 29, 2010

Biographical Info
Age: 36
Tour of Duty: Not available
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Fall
Date of Incident: Thursday, April 29, 2010
Weapon Used: Not available
Suspect Info: Not available

Sergeant Franco Aguilar was killed at approximately 10:30 pm when he fell approximately 250-feet from a bridge on I-70.
He was investigating an accident on the bridge that involved a car that had crashed into a barrier after sliding on the snowy highway. As he gathered information from the driver an approaching SUV also lost control on the snow and slid into the vehicle that had previously crashed.
It is believed Sergeant Aguilar was either struck and thrown over the guardrail, or was attempting to jump out of the SUV’s path, when he fell.
Sergeant Aguilar was killed on his 36th birthday.

Agency Contact Information
Sevier County Sheriff’s Office
835 East 300 North
Suite 200
Richfield, UT 84701
Phone: (435) 896-2600
Please contact the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office for funeral arrangements or for survivor benefit fund information.

RICHFIELD ā€” A lone orange cone remained standing Friday in a field 250 feet below a freeway overpass, marking the spot where Sevier County Sheriff’s Sgt. Franco Aguilar fell to his death.

On the freeway above, a circle of spray paint marked the spot where he had stood just before Thursday night’s tragic accident.

"It’s just tearing us all apart. He was a fantastic officer, very good teacher, loving supervisor. He taught his people very well," Sevier County Sheriff Phil Barney said.

Aguilar, who turned 36 on Wednesday, was killed while responding to a traffic accident on I-70 on the Fish Creek Bridge about 10:30 p.m. Thursday. A vehicle driven by a woman from Grand Junction, Colo., slid on the icy road into a concrete barrier.

While assisting the woman in that accident, a Chevrolet Suburban with three occupants inside, including an 18-year-old driver from Saratoga Springs, also lost control on the slick road at the same spot and crashed head-on into the first vehicle, said sheriff’s detective Nathan Curtis.

The Suburban hit the car and pushed it into Aguilar, who was then thrown off the bridge and fell 103 feet to his death.

Originally police were unsure whether Aguilar was hit and thrown or if he jumped to get out of the way, but after studying tire marks and car paint remnants on Aguilar’s clothes, they concluded he was pushed off after being hit by the green Camry. The speed of both vehicles is still under investigation.

The first vehicle suffered extensive damage. All four motorists were taken to local hospitals and suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

A deputy, holding back tears underneath his dark sunglasses, stopped at the crash site Friday, got out of his car and walked over to look down at the place where his friend had fallen.

"He’s the best damn officer I ever knew," said the deputy who declined to give his name.

The snow-covered site west of Richfield and about 11 miles east of I-15, is located in a mountainous area with winding roads dotted with several drop-offs and bridges. "Icy road" signs warn motorists before every bridge.

Gov. Gary Herbert ordered that flags at all state offices be lowered until sunset on Saturday in honor of Aguilar.

In Richfield, flags were at half staff, and police displayed black bands over their badges as they and the entire town mourned Aguilar. At the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, Barney held a private meeting with his deputies, corrections officer and other co-workers, many of them carrying boxes of tissues as they walked into the meeting room, greeting each other with long embraces.

Lt. Shaun Robbins said he and Aguilar started at the sheriff’s office within six months of each other. He recalled how Aguilar took his job very seriously but was also known as the office prankster.

"He was just an exemplary officer," he said. "He was well-known, well-respected. It’s just a somber mood (in the department). He was so well-liked by everybody. There’s not one officer that’s not hurting."

Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Lynn McAfee said his office recruited Aguilar, who worked for the patrol before returning to Sevier County. He admired Aguilar so much that he was trying to recruit him again.

"Everyone wanted him working for them," McAfee said. "You’d fill up your whole department with Francos if you could. He was a sharp officer, very confident. But he was also very humble. I think I admired that the most. He had a smile that was unique to him. He was just a class act."

"He was a heck of a guy," added Curtis. "He was one of those guys you really enjoy working with. He was a hard worker. He led by example. He was really one of those guys when you picture a police officer, he was that kind of guy."

Aguilar had served 10 years in law enforcement. He began his decorated career working in the Sevier County Jail. He was hired by Richfield police a few years later, then worked for the Utah Highway Patrol from its Nephi office and was rehired in 2007 by the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office, where he was assigned as a patrol officer. He was promoted to sergeant last year.

He was a member of the department’s SWAT team and gang unit. He was also a drug recognition expert and Taser instructor.

Aguilar is survived by his wife, Jamie, his high school sweetheart whom he met at American Fork High School. They have five children ranging in age from 2 to 16: Antonio, Alyssa, Nicolas, Angelia and Isabella.

Robbins spoke with Aguilar’s widow on Friday. He describes her as a strong woman.

"She’s devastated, but she’s handling it well," he said.

Aguilar was also well-liked in the community, and being Hispanic, he did a lot to help improve relations between the sheriff’s office and the Hispanic community, Barney said.

He also loved working on cars when he was off-duty, Curtis said. "He was into restoring old cars, painting auto-body projects, old classic cars."

Aguilar grew up in American Fork, where his parents still live. He served in the U.S. Marines for six years.

Being called out to a "recovery" operation is never easy, Curtis said. But it’s especially tough on officers in the area when the recovery operation is for one of their own.

"We’re a pretty tight department and pretty tight with other agencies we work with. We’ve all worked together, we’ve all trained together. Half the time we hang out with each other after work. It’s pretty tough," he said.

Deputies were working on establishing a fund for Aguilar’s family.

The sheriff’s office issued a statement praising Aguilar, who was killed "doing one of the things he did best ā€” helping others."

"Sgt. Aguilar was known for his dedication to his career, to his fellow officers and to his community. Always pushing himself and those around him to become better at what we do as deputies, Sgt. Aguilar led by example and never asked his deputies to do anything he would not do himself."

Herbert called Aguilar a "trusted and dedicated member of the law enforcement community and an example to those around him. He served his state and his country with honor, and his efforts on our behalf will not be forgotten."

Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday, May 5, at noon at the Sevier Valley Center in Richfield. Burial will be at American Fork Cemetery at 4 p.m. the same day with military rights by the Utah Honor Guard and Utah Highway Patrol.

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