EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — Hundreds of police officers on Thursday honored the Washington State Patrol trooper killed while directing traffic detours caused by the collapsed highway interstate bridge in Mount Vernon.

Trooper Sean O’Connell, 38, was a 16-year patrol veteran who died Friday in a collision with a truck at Conway while directing traffic following the aftermath of the Interstate 5 Skagit River bridge collapse.

“He was like a son to me,” said newly appointed Snohomish County Executive John Lovick, who supervised O’Connell when he worked for the State Patrol.

Lovick directly addressed O’Connell’s wife, saying that on the day of the accident he didn’t know what to say.

The executive also addressed O’Connell’s children.

“Your dad was the nicest man to walk the face of the earth,” Lovick said, the Everett Herald reported.

Hundreds of police cars and motorcycles representing numerous law enforcement agencies took part in a 13-mile procession Thursday to escort the hearse carrying O’Connell’s body to the memorial service at the Comcast Arena in Everett. Traffic on southbound Interstate 5 was briefly stopped as the procession entered the freeway from the Smokey Point rest area.

People on overpasses showed respect as the procession passed.

The hearse arrived at the arena to the sound of bagpipes and passed under a giant American flag hung from the extended arching ladders of two fire trucks.

“Sean O’Connell we’ll never forget you. You are a hero. WSP 1076” read a handmade sign from second-graders at Allen Creek Elementary School in Marysville. The sign hanging toward the front of the arena was decorated with small, colorful handprints.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee directed that flags at state offices and institutions be lowered to half-staff Thursday in memory of O’Connell.

O’Connell’s family suggested donations in his memory could be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or the Washington State Patrol Memorial Foundation.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



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