A pickup truck pulling a trailer loaded with gardening equipment, making an illegal left turn, and being operated by a person under the influence, proved to be a fatal combination for a young California Highway Patrol Motor Officer.
On the afternoon of August 27, CHP Motor Officer Shannon Distel, assigned to the Riverside office, was on duty in the unincorporated area south of the City of Riverside, when a pickup truck pulling a trailer, suddenly, and without warning negotiated an illegal left turn in his path. Unable to take evasive action and avoid a collision, Distel’s motorcycle ended up wedged between the truck and trailer, catapulting Distel into the air more than 150 feet.
Emergency medical personnel responded to the scene within minutes and attempted to resuscitate the fallen officer, to no avail. Officer Distel was transported to the Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. At the hospital, CHP Captain Mike Bair and more than a dozen of Distel’s fellow officers arrived offering comfort and support to the officers wife and family.
The driver of the pickup truck, 31 year old Riverside resident Miguel Martin and his two passengers were not injured in the accident, but Martin was later arrested and booked for driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter.
In keeping with tradition, Governor Davis ordered the flags atop the State Capitol be flown at half-staff in honor of the fallen officer and issued the following statement: “This incident underscores the dangers that law enforcement officers face every day while they are on the job protecting us all. On behalf of all Californians, Sharon and I extend our heartfelt condolences to Officer Distel’s family and friends”.
On Saturday, August 30, a well attended Candlelight Vigil was held in honor of the fallen officer.
On Wednesday morning, September 3, an over-flow attendance of several hundred family members, friends, community leaders and peace officers from a multitude of jurisdictions statewide gathered to pay their final respect to Officer Distel at the Harvest Christian Fellowship Church in Riverside.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer was once again in attendance offering condolences on behalf of all of the people of the state.
California Highway Patrol Commissioner Spike Helmick eulogized Shannon Distel as “a dedicated, outstanding officer, taken from us too soon”.
Perhaps the most emotional portion of the memorial services was the reading of a letter written by Distel’s nine year old daughter Brionna, “Two days ago I thought I saw your face in the clouds”, she wrote and expressed the concerns of a young lady who undoubtedly was finding the loss of her Dad too bewildering and his importance in her daily life irreplaceable, “the family will now have to figure out how to clean the pool and use the barbecue”.
Officer Shannon Distel is survived by his wife Deanna, his nine year old daughter Brionna, a new five month old son Brody, and two young step children Savannah Wetherbee and Tucker Wetherbee.
Any donations to assist the family may be sent to Deanna Distel at the Riverside CHP office, 8118 Lincoln Avenue, Riverside, CA 92504.