A dark day for State Police
WEST HURLEY: The region was stunned at the loss of a State Police
veteran and his new patrol partner in a crash Wednesday night.
By John Milgrim
and Jay Stapleton
The Times Herald-Record
Mike Kelly was the vet, the mentor and leader. He became a cop about the
time Kenny Poormon was born.
That didn't matter when they met three months ago. They quickly become
friends, said one man who spent part of the Wednesday with them.
It started as an average day for the two: a mountain bike ride together, a
couple of court cases and routine road patrol that was to last through
The crash report came in at 7:41 p.m.
Both state troopers were killed instantly Wednesday night when a
tractor-trailer collided with their patrol car. Within minutes, most of the other
cops in the region responded.
Yesterday morning, skid marks painted the pavement at the scene.
Poormon's girlfriend stopped in the morning along the shoulder to lay a
flower and candy-covered cross on the guardrail. On it she wrote, "Kenny, I
"It's a very dark day in the State Police," Maj. Alan Martin, who's in charge
of troopers throughout Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, said yesterday.
"Losing two is very difficult."
It was the first time since late 1937, according to State Police, two New
York state troopers were killed at the same time and the first death within the
five-county troop since Feb. 14, 1997. Wurtsboro Trooper Nathaniel
Burroughs was killed then by a passing truck as he investigated an accident
on an icy Route 17 in Mamakating.
Kelly will be buried Saturday in Kingston. Arrangements for Poormon were
State Police pieced together an account of what happened:
Kelly, 49, and Poormon, 23, were headed east Wednesday evening on a
two-lane portion of the notoriously dangerous Route 28. Kelly was driving.
They were spotting cars headed the other way, looking for violations and
checking they were within the limits of the 55 miles per hour law, police said.
It was routine duty and one for which Kelly trained other cops at both in
practice and at the State Police Academy.
Trucker Robert Kothe Jr., 53, of West Hurley, was behind the troopers' car
Wednesday evening shortly before the crash. Behind him, the sun was
They were just east of the Mountainside restaurant when Kelly spotted a
westbound car he planned to stop, police said. Investigators wondered
yesterday if the setting sun obliterated Kelly's rear-view.
Witnesses told investigators they saw the slick-top State Police cruiser put its
brake lights on and pull over to the right-hand shoulder before making a
U-turn directly in the path of the loaded truck. The patrol car was pushed
across the road, through a cable guardrail and into an embankment. The
truck landed on top of them.
The car the cops were apparently chasing also stopped, said Martin. The
people in that car were not identified, but Martin said they saw the crash
behind them. "They were very upset," he said.
Kothe was treated for cuts and bruises at Benedictine Hospital and released.
Police said it appeared both troopers were wearing seat belts.
As for the crash, the trucker got no tickets.
"Human error, it looks like, on one of our own," Martin said.
In a small bike shop outside Kingston yesterday, owner Bill White had
Kelly's black Specialized bike tuned and ready for him to pick up. He still
had a few cranberry muffins that Kelly, a husband and father of two, baked
and dropped off Wednesday morning.
State Police Sgt. Warner Hein, the Kingston station commander, was a
student of Kelly's when Kelly taught at the State Police Academy.
"He told me someday I'd be his boss and 10 years later I was," Hein said,
wishing he had two dozen more cops like Kelly, the kind that lead by
State Police Superintendent James McMahon, who came up through the
ranks in Orange County, said Poormon graduated at the top of his academy
class. "I had no doubt this young trooper was going to model himself after
(Kelly)," said McMahon.
"He's a young guy," White said. "He seemed to be very happy with the
move. He was happy to find Mike I'm sure. Here's someone as crazy as he
McMahon first met Kelly 20 years ago when Kelly ran in the Police Chase,
an annual 10K running race in Newburgh.
"Many people know him from running," White said of Kelly. "Everybody
who ever ran knew Mike as the person who never said quit. He was always
at the front and always working harder than he should. It was just his nature."