New Year’s Eve 2005 took a devastating turn for CHP’s Santa Cruz office and the family of Lt. Michael Walker.
At approximately 10:10 p.m. Lt. Walker and Sgt. Mike Redel responded to the scene of a traffic collision on narrow SR-17 that winds through the Santa Cruz mountains. In the stormy weather they provided assistance to a driver who had spun out and crashed. CalTrans worker, Victor Diaz arrived at the scene, parking his truck behind the CHP unit to provide additional traffic control. As Lt. Walker was initiating a flare pattern, an approaching driver lost control of his vehicle, striking the rear of the CalTrans truck, forcing it forward where it struck Lt. Walker. After arriving at Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, Walker succumbed to his injuries.
A preliminary investigation of the accident showed no indication of drugs or alcohol. The driver of the vehicle, Jerry Blinkenberg, a 31-year-old resident of Boulder Creek, later died from injuries sustained in the accident.
Walker was the youngest of four boys raised in Daly City as part of a large extended Irish American family. In 1981 he followed his older brother, Robert, into the CHP. After serving Contra Costa County for 15 years, he was promoted to sergeant in the commercial vehicle inspection unit in Cordelia and moved to the Vallejo office in 2002. In May 2006 he earned his lieutenant bars and was assigned to Santa Cruz.
Rather than relocate his family when he took the new post, Walker, an avid camper, spent weekdays living in a travel trailer, driving home to Vacaville on weekends to be with his family. During the summer months, his wife Michelle, and the couple’s two daughters, Amanda, 9, and Jennifer, 7, joined him camping in the Santa Cruz area.
It was in Vacaville on January 6, 2006, that Lt. Michael Walker was remembered during a Catholic Mass at The Mission Church. Over 1600 people, including hundreds of officers from public safety agencies across six states, praised Walker as a dedicated husband and father, a gregarious and warm-hearted friend and a “road dog” who hated being stuck behind a desk. “Mike was more than just a great guy. He was a true believer,” CHP Commissioner Mike Brown said. “He truly believed in saving lives and protecting the public. It was a passion for him.” “He wouldn’t ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do himself,” said Officer Debbie Bratby, noting that Walker sent other officers home to be with their families on New Year’s Eve while he performed their duties.
Michelle Walker did not speak at the service, but in a note read by a relative she said Walker “brought so many gifts to his family, friends and work relationships…I was so blessed to have him in my life for 12 ½ years. Whatever was happening in our lives, not a day, a moment passed that we doubted Mike’s love.”
“He brought laughter and love to us in a million different ways.”
A memorial fund has been established for Walker’s daughters. Donations may be submitted to the Lt. Mike Walker Memorial Fund, c/o Comerica Bank, 30 Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center, Aptos, Calif. 95003, or c/o CHP, 10395 Soquel Drive, Aptos, Calif. 95003.