PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Hundreds attended the funeral Friday for a Perryopolis Police officer who was killed in a tragic accident last weekend.
Richard Champion, 34, was killed Sunday after crashing into an SUV.
Funeral services were held at 11 a.m. at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Ligonier. Champion will be accorded fully military and law-enforcement honors.
Officers from as far away as New York City showed up to pay their respects.
“He was an Army veteran who protected our nation and police officer who protected out community,” Trooper Steve Limani, of the Pennsylvania State Police, read from a statement issued by the Perryopolis Police Department. “He greeted every day and every face with a smile. And even though today is filled with tears and goodbyes, we will never forget Officer Champion.”
During the service, Fr. John Foriska spoke of Officer Champion’s dedication to duty and the virtues of costly grace.
Any time you give of your life for somebody else, it’s going to cost you something… is a very costly grace, because at any one time, what has happened to Richard could happen to any one of you,” Fr. Foriska said.
Witnesses say last weekend, Champion’s car was in pursuit when he crashed, then it caught fire as they watched in horror.
After Champion’s car caught fire, witnesses say they tried to extinguish it, but weren’t able to. The witnesses say Champion’s car was locked, one person even tried using a hammer to get into the car, but was unsuccessful.
Community members in the small, tight-knit town were left somber by the news.
Police Chief Roger Beadling says Officer Champion’s wife was with her mother when officers explained the tragic events.
“They came down to the station last night about 6 p.m., we spoke with her, explained everything that happened,” Beadling says.
Champion was father to a 16-month-old baby and was an Iraq War veteran. He joined the Perryopolis Police force about eight months ago.
When the service ended, the hundreds of officers attending assembled to see Officer Champion off for a burial at nearby Snow Ball Cemetery.
Officials closed several streets in Ligonier, including West Main Street and Route 30, for the funeral procession. But all have since reopened.
Meanwhile, the other man injured in the crash, 59-year-old Andrew Bohatch from Uniontown has also died from his injuries. He was pronounced dead at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital just after 4 p.m. Friday, the same day as Champion’s funeral.
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