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SEVIER COUNTY -- A Utah community is mourning the loss of a deputy killed while trying to help a motorist.
The Sevier County Sheriff's Office says around 10 p.m. Thursday, 36-year-old Sgt. Franco Aguilar was responding to a crash on Interstate 70 near the town of Sevier.
A 23-year-old woman from Colorado had lost control of her vehicle in snowy conditions on the Fish Creek Bridge and crashed into a barrier.
As Sgt. Aguilar was working the accident, a dark blue Chevy Suburban came across the bridge in the same direction. The 18-year-old driver from Saratoga Springs hit a patch of ice, lost control and the SUV slammed into the first vehicle that had crashed.
Investigators say based on witness accounts, they believe Sgt. Aguilar was hit by one of the vehicles and was thrown over the edge of the bridge. Investigators say Aguilar fell 250 feet to his death.
"What we have right now is the medical examiner's office looking into his injuries. The nature of his injuries, they are very substantial, a little more than what we would believe to be from trying to get out of the way," said Nathan Curtis with the Sevier County Sheriff's Office. "Most of our officers have been up there before and they know that it's a long ways down."
The other two people involved in the crash were taken to Sevier Valley Hospital to be treated for injuries. They are expected to be OK.
Sgt. Aguilar was from Richfield. He had worked in law enforcement since 2000. He began his career at the jail in Sevier County as a corrections officer. He leaves behind a wife and five children ranging in age from 15 to one and a half.
He touched lives in not only Sevier County, but the surrounding counties through his work. He was a brother from another mother.
–Chief Deputy John Hunt
"He was just one of those guys who personifies what a police officer is," Curtis said. "He lived his life in a way that people just looked up to him. Officers looked up to him. He was one of those guys who could work with any agency."
Sheriff's Office hoping to make sense of officer's death
Thursday, night Sheriff Phil Barney with the Sevier County Sheriff's Office received a call he says he hoped he'd never get -- the call that one of his own had died in the line of duty.
"I prayed it would never happen to me," he said.
The Sheriff's Office says the last time an officer was killed in that area was in the 1920s. Now, Aguilar's fellow law enforcement officers are trying to make sense of his death.
"We just want to know what happened," said Barney.
Barney says Aguilar died doing one of the things he did best: helping others.
He also says Sgt. Aguilar's death was clearly an accident. He says nobody wanted to hurt him, and that he now feels sorry for the other victims involved in the accident.
However, Barney says now his attention must be on Sgt. Aguilar's family. "We just tell them we love them, were here for them. Well do anything we can for them at anytime," he said.
The Sevier County Sheriff's Office released a statement that said in part, "Sgt. Aguilar was known for his dedication to his career, to his fellow officers, and to his community.
"(He) lead by example, and never asked his deputies to do anything he would not do himself." Click here to read the statement.
Aguilar remembered as well-loved, outstanding officer
Members of the Sevier County Sheriff's Office describe Sgt. Franco Aguilar as someone who personifies what a police officer should be. They say even in his final moments of life, his primary concern was helping others.
News of Sgt. Aguilar's death quickly spread through the law enforcement community.
Friday, flags are flying at half staff in Aguilar's home town of Richfield. Deputies from the Sevier County Sheriff's Office are wearing black bands around their badges in remembrance of his life and in honor of his service.
"It goes throughout the entire county," said Chief Deputy John Hunt. "He touched lives in not only Sevier County, but the surrounding counties through his work. He was a brother from another mother."
Lt. Sean Robbins has been a close colleague and friend of Aguilar's for 10 years. He had the difficult task of notifying his family.
"It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, the hardest thing I'll ever do, but it was something that needed to be done," Robbins said.
Robbins worked with Sgt. Aguilar for 10 years.
"He's irreplaceable," Robbins said. "Just well loved, not only by surrounding agencies, law enforcement, but by the people in the community as well. He just has so many friends, everyone liked him."
Sgt. Aguilar has been a law enforcement officer for more than 10 years. During that time he has served for the Utah Highway Patrol, the Richfield Police Department and Sevier County Sheriff's Office.
"He was a leader that lead by example," Curtis said. "He was one of those guys who wouldn't ask you to do anything unless he was willing to do it himself. He would push guys to do better, challenge them, and then be right there with him."
He served his state and his country with honor, and his efforts on our behalf will not be forgotten.
–Gov. Gary Herbert
Gov. Gary Herbert extended his condolences to Sgt. Aguilar's family Friday. In a statement, he said, "Sgt. Aguilar was a trusted and dedicated member of the law enforcement community and an example to those around him. He served his state and his country with honor, and his efforts on our behalf will not be forgotten."
The governor has ordered that flags at all state offices be lowered until sunset on Saturday in honor of Sgt. Aguilar.
Friends, community react to news
The news of Sgt. Aguilar's death has hit hard in Sevier County, and especially in his hometown of Richfield. Several people showed up in the spot where he died, because they just couldn't believe the news.
It's hard to imagine someone you know falling 250 feet from a bridge. For Trevor Jeweks and Derek Simmons, that person was a friend.
"I just never expected something like this to happen," Simmons said.
"He was a professional policeman, he loved his crew, he loved his people, he wanted to help his people. He was Hispanic, and he helped the Hispanic community here. It's a loss we will never get over," Barney said.
As Jeweks and Simmons looked at the last place their friend served his community, they say they agree with Barney: They say the friend they once had is one who was always willing to help others.
"He was just always there when you needed him," Jeweks said. "A really good guy, a really good cop."
An account has been set up to help Aguilar's family. Donations can be made to the Franco Aguilar Memorial Fund at either Wells Fargo and Zions Bank.
KSL.com has not verified the accuracy of the information provided with respect to the account nor does ksl.com assure that the monies deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.