6/1/00 Times Herald Record

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
                   love you."
                   "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
                   incomplete yesterday.
                   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."