Tuxedo Mourns - Village police officer dies chasing speeder
By Pauline Greenberg
TUXEDO PARK - A Tuxedo Park police officer died yesterday when he was thrown out of his four-wheel drive patrol truck and crushed during a rollover accident. The officer was apparently chasing a speeder.

Officer Jason D. Conklin, 22, of Sloatsburg, was killed instantly when the 1997 Ford Expedition patrol truck rolled on top of him, said Bill Bortnowsky, Chief of Tuxedo Park Police Department.

Bortnowsky gave this account of the accident :  Conklin had been seen with his radar on a side street off Tuxedo Road about 4:40 p.m. He apparently flipped on his lights and siren to go after the speeder.  He flipped at a curve in Tuxedo Road. He was apparently ejected through the driver's side window and pinned under the truck, police said.  No one else was injured in the accident.

It didn't appear that Conklin was wearing a seatbelt when he crashed. Police officers do not have to wear seat belts on duty. Wet road conditions could have contributed to the accident, Bortnowsky said. The Expedition will be examined for defects, in particular a sheared right axle.

The speeder Conklin was chasing has not been found.  The investigation is continuing with the help of the Ramapo Police reconstruction team and the Town of Tuxedo Police Department. Police are interviewing a Federal Express driver who witnessed the accident.

Orange County Coroner James P. Fanning pronounced Conklin dead at 5:44 p.m. Dr. Louis Roh was expected to perform an autopsy late last night or today at The Cornwall Hospital.  The preliminary cause of death, Fanning said, was massive head trauma.

Conklin is the first Tuxedo Police Officer killed in the line of duty for at least 20 years, Bortnowsky said. He was still a rookie, only on the force for about one year. "He was a bright, aspiring officer," he added.  "Jason really enjoyed being a police officer."  

The spring graduate of the Rockland County Police Academy began as a part-time dispatcher for the department. His older brother David is the Town of Tuxedo K-9 officer.

"We're devastated," Tuxedo Park Mayor Susan Goodfellow said. "We have a very special relationship with our police department in the village.  Right now, we're just numb and in shock and are just trying to absorb this terrible tragedy."  

"This is the saddest day for a police chief, when you have to bury one of your own," Bortnowsky said.