Sergeant Joseph (Joe) Schuengel Missouri State Highway Patrol Missouri End of Watch: Friday, October 15, 2010

Photograph: Sergeant Joseph (Joe) SchuengelPatch image: Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri

Sergeant Joseph (Joe) Schuengel
Missouri State Highway Patrol

End of Watch: Friday, October 15, 2010

Biographical Info
Age: 47
Tour of Duty: 17 years
Badge Number: Not available

Incident Details
Cause of Death: Aircraft accident
Date of Incident: Friday, October 15, 2010
Weapon Used: Not available
Suspect Info: Not available

Sergeant Joe Schuengel was killed in a helicopter crash while returning to Spirit of St. Louis Airport in one of the department’s traffic enforcement helicopters.
He had dropped off several other troopers and was returning to the airport when the Bell 206B helicopter experienced a probable mechanical failure. It is believed he was able to maneuver the aircraft to avoid nearby houses before crashing into a residential street on Horseshoe Ridge Road.
Residents and responding officers immediately responded to the scene, but Sergeant Schuengel had been killed on impact.
Sergeant Schuengel had served with the Missouri State Highway Patrol for 17 years.

Agency Contact Information
Missouri State Highway Patrol
Public Affairs Office
1510 E. Elm Street
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Phone: (573) 751-3313
Please contact the Missouri State Highway Patrol for funeral arrangements or for survivor benefit fund information.

ST. LOUIS COUNTY The pilot of a Missouri State Highway Patrol helicopter died in a crash in a residential subdivision in the Clarkson Valley area this morning.

No one on the ground was injured.

The pilot was Highway Patrol Sgt. Joe Schuengel, 47. He is a 17-year veteran of the patrol.

Capt. Tim Hull of the highway patrol’s headquarters in Jefferson City confirmed that the helicopter carried only Schuengel, who was killed on impact. Hull said the helicopter had been assigned to traffic enforcement.

"It’s never easy when one on our own officers is killed. It’s a tough situation," Hull said.

Sgt. Al Nothum of the highway patrol said the copter came down on a street and did not hit any homes. He said the cause of the crash is unknown. FAA investigators are on their way to the scene to begin their probe, said agency spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory.

The helicopter was working speeding enforcement above Interstate 55 in Jefferson County this morning. Two other highway patrol troopers were in the helicopter for that duty, but Schuengel dropped them off and was returning to Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield when the helicopter crashed about 11 a.m., officials said.

The tower at Spirit airport lost the helicopter from radar, then called in the St. Louis County police helicopter to fly over the area and see what happened, said Spirit’s director, John Bales.

Bales said there were no distress calls prior to the crash.

"Not at all," Bales said. "I’m assuming it was something catastrophic that happened and (the pilot) did everything he could to land it in a safe place."

The copter crashed along Horseshoe Ridge Road, of Kehrs Mill Road in unincorporated St. Louis County between Chesterfield and Ballwin. The area to the west of Chesterfield Mall and north of the Forest Hills Country Club.

The subdivision is the Kehrs Mill Trail subdivision, consisting of 102 homes that each sit on two acres or more. The subdivision is surrounded by a forest and includes three lakes.

Poncho Grajeda, 40, said he was working on a home in the area when he heard the helicopter’s engine making loud noises. He said he saw it struggling in the air, then come straight down.

He and about a dozen neighbors ran over to crash site, which was strewn with glass and papers, he said. The wreckage was smoking and spilling gas and oil. He said he saw the pilot, who wasn’t moving. Police showed up quickly to take over the scene, he said.

"I try to pray for him," Grajeda, originally from Guatemala, said in broken English.

Several Ameren Missouri workers who were also in the area said they heard what seemed like a scraping noise and then a loud thud. When they got to the crash site, they found the helicopter’s rotor had detached from the flattened wreckage of the rest of the craft. The rotor ended up in somone’s yard, they said.

Nothum said Schuengel had been a pilot with the highway patrol for the last seven years. As required, the copter was serviced every 100 hours, Nothum said.

"Joe was meticulous about this helicopter," Nothum said. "We’re not sure what happened at this point."

Hull said the patrol’s aircraft division had five helicopters. Some are used in conjunction with the Defense Department for marijuana eradication, while others, like Schuengel’s, are used for traffic enforcement and searches by air.

According to the FAA, the Bell 206B JetRanger helicopter was manufactured in 1981. The helicopter was Troop C’s only helicopter. Schuengel assisted in searches for missing children in the area and often appeared at community events as a representative of the highway patrol.

Schuengel was interviewed by the Post-Dispatch in 2005, when a reporter attended a "Citizen’s Academy" at the highway patrol. He talked about the risks troopers face every day.

"When you get up in the morning and put on that uniform, you’ve got to be in the mind-set that you’re going to go home at night, " Schuengel said at the time. "You’re going to pull in the driveway, you’re going to see your family."

Schuengel was honored in 2004 after helping save a man who had been in a crash on Interstate 64 in St. Louis the year before. According to the highway patrol, the man wasn’t breathing and had no pulse when Schuengel pulled him out of his wrecked van. He administered CPR and the man had a pulse and was breathing when paramedics arrived.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon ordered flags at all Missouri State Highway Patrol facilities to be immediately lowered to half-staff this afternoon.

"The men and women of the Missouri State Highway Patrol place their lives on the line every day," Nixon said in a statement. "It is a risk they bravely and willingly accept as part of their sworn dedication to uphold the law and protect their fellow citizens. Today, that risk came at a tragic cost with the death of Sgt. Joe Schuengel in the line of duty. My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of the First Lady, are with Sgt. Schuengel’s family."

Schuengel is survived by his mother and three sisters, according to the patrol.

He is the 29th member of the Missouri Highway Patrol to die in the line of duty.


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