Off-duty police officer dies after crash
New details have emerged about a snowmobile crash that resulted in the death of an off-duty Alexandria Police officer, Patrick Callaghan.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office and North Ambulance were called to the scene on the Central Lakes Trail near Liberty Road east of Alexandria at about 8:10 p.m. on Jan. 29, according to the sheriff's office.
Deputies found two injured victims - Callaghan, 31, of Alexandria and Mark Ruder, 25, of Glencoe.
The two men were snowmobiling with another person, Rob Stanley, 28, of Alexandria, who was not involved in the crash.
Both victims were transported to Douglas County Hospital and later airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center.
Callaghan died at HCMC at 12:45 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 30 from blunt force trauma. As of Monday morning, Ruder was listed in satisfactory condition at HCMC.
According to the sheriff's office, here's what happened:
The three men knew each other and were riding on the trail together.
They were traveling west on the Central Lakes Trail. Callaghan and Stanley stopped just west of Liberty Road at the bottom of a small hill. Reportedly, Ruder's snowmobile, which came up and over the hill, then ran into the back of Callaghan's sled, according to the sheriff's office. All three men were wearing helmets.
"Right now, we are simply trying to figure out what happened," said Dave Ahlquist with the sheriff's office. "We are looking at all the factors."
Ahlquist indicated that blood-alcohol tests were taken, but that the results wouldn't be known for 10 days to two weeks.
Callaghan was driving a 1997 Arctic Cat ZL440 and Ruder was driving a 1996 Arctic Cat EXT.
The accident is under investigation by the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota State Patrol.
Callaghan is the son of Jeff and Deb Callaghan of rural Carlos and brother of Lisa Callaghan.
His family has a rich history of law enforcement service. Callaghan's father was a Douglas County sheriff's chief deputy and his great-great-grandfather, Jerry Callaghan, served as Alexandria police chief in 1930. His great-grandfather also served on the Alexandria Police Department and his great-grandmother was the first female police officer in the city of Alexandria.
On Saturday afternoon, the Alexandria Police Department issued the following statement:
"On January 29, Alexandria Police officer, Patrick Callaghan, was killed in a snowmobile accident. Patrick was off-duty at the time. This is a great loss for the Callaghan family, the Alexandria Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the city of Alexandria, which is the community Patrick served in. This is a great loss to all of us."
In an interview Monday morning, Alexandria Police Chief Rick Wyffels said the law enforcement community was devastated with the news of Callaghan's death.
Wyffels, who was shook up over the loss of one of his officers, said, "This is a tragic event for all of us, but my heart is hurting the most for his parents, Jeff and Deb."
Wyffels said Callaghan's record with the Alexandria Police Department was impeccable.
"He truly was a good officer," said the chief.
Wyffels noted that Callaghan worked for the Glenwood Police Department prior to being hired in Alexandria. He was a police officer in Glenwood from 2000 to 2007.
While with the Glenwood Police Department, Callaghan, along with another officer, Dale Danter, were awarded certificates of commendation in 2005 from the city of Glenwood for their assistance in apprehending armed suspects in Pope County who had been involved in an assault and burglary in Morris.
The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association also recognized Callaghan and Danter for their help in apprehending the suspects.
Glenwood Police Chief David Thompson told Pope County Tribune news editor Amy Chaffins on Monday that Callaghan "was a good officer. He was well liked by the public, as well as his fellow officers."
Comments from family and friends
Since his death, friends and family have been posting messages on two Facebook pages - "Praying for the Callaghans" and "Celebrating the life of Pat Callaghan" - of their heart-felt sympathy and grief for his family. Many memories of who he was have also been shared.
When reading through the comments, there was one unmistakable characteristic about Callaghan - his smile. "It could light up a room," many posts said.
Words used to describe Callaghan included strong, trustworthy, kind, loyal, big-hearted, fun, confident, fun-loving, always smiling, happy-go-lucky, caring, a great role model and friend and an outstanding police officer.
Callaghan was also lauded as an avid sportsman, playing baseball for the Alexandria Senators and the Carlos Cougars. He also loved to hunt, play pool and listen to country music.