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Officer Killed During Rappelling Exercise

Officer Killed During Rappelling Exercise

The Sanford Herald via YellowBrix

July 07, 2011

SANFORD, NC — Sanford police confirmed Wednesday that an officer died following a rappelling accident during a Tuesday afternoon training session at the Emergency Services Training Center off Tramway Road.

The officer, 55-year-old Elieser “Eli” Colonroche, died at roughly 6:30 p.m. at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill after he slammed into the wall of a four-story tower on the training grounds, authorities said.

“It was just an accident,” said Maj. Kevin Gray, head of the Sanford Police Department’s field operations. “There were no safety issues, all the safety precautions were followed.”

Gray said Colonroche, a local police officer since August 2002, was practicing for a planned rappelling demonstration. Colonroche was scaling down the tower when he slammed hard into a third-floor window. Police said Colonroche appeared to have suffered only a minor elbow injury, but was nevertheless taken to Central Carolina Hospital.

Colonroche was later transported to Chapel Hill, where he was declared dead early Tuesday evening.

Gray said officials are still waiting for an autopsy confirmation on the cause of death for the veteran officer, who served as a Spanish-speaking member of the department’s patrol division.

“It’s still kind of vague, and we’re investigating it,” Gray said.

Gray added that Colonroche was experienced at the rappelling, and that officers were preparing for a demonstration with Central Carolina Community College at month’s end. He said Tuesday’s death was the first time the department has lost an officer during the training sessions.

According to information provided by Bridges-Cameron Funeral Home in Sanford, Colonroche’s favorite pastime was skydiving. The native of Puerto Rico had 22 years of service in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne division, and he was married with three sons.

Word spread about the police officer’s death by Wednesday afternoon, with several people in local law enforcement and other city and county posts, including Lee County emergency management chief Shane Seagroves, posting photos of police badges with a black band across the center as a tribute on the social networking Website Facebook.

Seagroves said he was out of town when the accident happened, but he was notified of the death Tuesday night.

“He was a super nice guy,” Seagroves said. “It’s such a shame.”

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