LATHAM, N.Y. – The funeral services for New York State Trooper David Cunniff who died following a Monday night car accident on the Thruway were held Friday morning.
The service began at 11 a.m. at Grace Fellowship Church, where Cunniff was a member and a guitar player in the worship band.
The family stood outside the church as Trooper Cunniff's body arrived at the church Friday morning, his two sons wearing Stetsons to honor their fallen hero. New York State police and other law enforcement agencies stood in formation as the funeral began. Governor Cuomo also arrived, standing in the front row with state police from Troop T, where Trooper Cunniff was stationed.
State Police said up to 1,500 troopers from New York and across the country --as far as California and Washington State -- came to pay their final respects.
Trooper Andrew Matthews with the Connecticut State Police said "We are a family so it affects all of us. We are all doing a dangerous job. We should all come together and support one another. "
Trooper Matthews was one of many who came to Latham to pay respects as Trooper Cunniff was laid to rest on Friday.
"As far as the family is concerned this is an accident. They want the truck driver and other victim of the accident to understand that this was an accident as far as they see. The only thing they want everyone involved is for everyone to move forward with the family and heal together," said the church's pastor, Tim Owens.
Cunniff's wife, Amy, explained in a letter that was read aloud that when they found out their oldest son Caleb had a rare disorder called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Cunniff became determined to help find a cure. So far, the family has helped to raise $52,000.
The burial immediately followed the service, his final resting place at the Memory Gardens Cemetery in Colonie.
Cunniff, 35, was a 9-year-veteran of the New York State Police.
Cunniff's patrol car was parked as he conducted a traffic stop December 16 on the Thruway. His vehicle and the car driven by Eric Heller 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 and partially ejected him from the vehicle. The tractor trailer continued on and struck Heller's car trapping Heller in his vehicle. Heller 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.
Blakley will likely face charges for having an out-of-date log book and could possibly be charged under the state's "Move Over" Law.
Police said alcohol and weather did not factor into the crash.
Hundreds of people, including family, friends and men and women in uniform, attended Cunniff's calling hours on Thursday to not only mourn his passing but to celebrate his life.
Sgt. Brian Zennie of Pennsylvania State Police said, "It's a reality that sets in for all of us. You get up that morning and you know that could be you one of your guys at your station at any given day."
Cunniff is survived by his wife and two children. A fund has been set up to benefit the family. Include "The Family of David Cunniff" in the donation submission, here.
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