Good Samaritan speaks out after Trooper was killed in Thruway ac - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Good Samaritan speaks out after Trooper was killed in Thruway accident

Posted: Updated: Dec 18, 2013 08:50 PM
Photo: New York State Trooper David Cunniff (NYS police) Photo: New York State Trooper David Cunniff (NYS police)

LATHAM, N.Y. -- State Police say that the funeral service for State Trooper David Cunniff killed in Monday night's deadly Thruway accident is scheduled for Friday at the Grace Fellowship Church in Latham.

Calling hours will be held at the church on Thursday, December 19 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday. He was a very active member at the church, and many who knew him, shared with NEWS10 ABCwhat a great man he was.

Cunniff's patrol vehicle was parked as he conducted a traffic stop. His vehicle and the vehicle he had stopped were struck by a tractor trailer driven by 65-year-old Gary Blakley of Ridgeway, Ontario.

The tractor trailer was travelling in the right lane, left the roadway, and hit both cars. The impact forced Trooper Cunniff's car off the right shoulder, partially ejecting him from the vehicle. The tractor trailer continued on, striking Eric Heller's car, trapping him in his vehicle. He had to be extricated by the Amsterdam Fire Department.

Heller, 57, of Stoney Creek, was transported to Albany Medical Center for his injuries. He is in fair condition. Cunniff was taken to Albany Medical Center, where he later died. Blakley was not injured in the crash.

Kim Zuppardi of Amsterdam said she was driving from her step-daughter's Christmas concert Monday evening. She was in the car with her husband and her two young sons and missed that horrific crash by seconds.

Zuppardi said that when she saw the tractor trailer on top of the car, she knew she needed to stop and she did. Zuppardi and her husband got out and surveyed the damage. She says she heard Heller screaming for help.

Zuppardi's husband stayed with Heller, which is when she spotted the State Police cruiser, mangled down the embankment. Zuppardi quickly made her way to the vehicle and saw Cunniff partially ejected and unconscious, but Zuppardi and another Trooper tried to get him up out of the snow.

Zuppardi says she'd been a medic in the army for three years but knew there was little she could do.

"I wish I could have done more," said Zuppardi. "I'm sorry to the State Troopers for the loss of your brother. I have friends who are State Troopers. But I want them to know that he wasn't alone. I think that's important."

Following the death of Trooper David Cunniff, there has been an outpouring of support and sympathy on Facebook. One woman in particular, was with the trooper and wants his loved ones to know he wasn't alone following the accident.

It's been just over 24-hours since word first broke that a New York State Trooper was involved in an accident that claimed his life. His death has prompted thousands in the Capital Region, and across the country, to show support for someone considered a true hero.

Trooper David Cunniff loved life, his family, and was a devoted follower of Christ.

His role at Grace Fellowship in Latham was to play guitar in the church's worship band, impacting the spirits of all who heard him play.

Terry Dunlap, a friend of Cunniff's posted on Facebook, "Dave and I would talk often about our careers and things that happened on a daily basis. I truly love that guy so much. Playing at Grace with him was amazing."

On Tuesday night, a Facebook page memorial was published in Cunniff's honor.  Already – it has nearly 6,000 ‘likes'.

People have been encouraged to share memories.

Laura Grapes wrote "We will miss many things about our family friend, especially his kindness to all he encountered, his laugh, playing his guitar for GF, he was truly unique, one of a kind."

Zuppardi said "we talked to him, and that's how I found out he had a couple children."

Friends of the Cunniff family say those children were the shining stars of his life.

Christa Miller Deno wrote on the Facebook memorial page, "My favorite memory of Dave is of him baptizing his son. The joy that filled his face on that day carries even more meaning today."

An investigation into the crash is ongoing, and police said Tuesday that weather and alcohol did not appear to be factors and that there may have been issues with the truck drivers log book.

NEWS10 ABC has also learned that Cunniff was supposed to be on vacation on Monday, but went in to work to help out.

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