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Patrol vehicle collides with garbage truck, killing trooper

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LIGONIER, Pa. (AP) — A marked police vehicle on routine patrol collided with a garbage truck early Friday, killing one state trooper and injuring a second.

The crash occurred at around 2:20 a.m. as Trooper Michael P. Stewart was driving with a partner in the vehicle on Route 711, just outside Ligonier, in western Pennsylvania, state police said.

Stewart's partner, Trooper Travis November, suffered a concussion, and the McInchok Sanitation garbage truck driver wasn't hurt, said state police spokesman Trooper Stephen Limani.

He described Stewart as a great trooper and "a big man with an even bigger heart, and a bigger personality that went with it. He was extremely fun to be around, very charismatic."

Investigators are examining the police vehicle and garbage truck, working to reconstruct the collision and seeking any video from a nearby gas station.

He said it was too early in the investigation to assign fault.

Stewart, 26, enlisted in the state police in January 2014 and served with a Greensburg-based patrol unit. He had also been stationed in Chambersburg. Stewart is the 98th member of the force to be killed in the line of duty.

Stewart's uncle, Jimmy Stewart, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that his nephew was outgoing, loved his family and had just purchased a home. He was a graduate of Latrobe High School and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, with a degree in criminal justice.

He died at the scene of the crash. Funeral arrangements are being made through the John J. Lopatich Funeral Home of Latrobe.

"My thoughts, and the thoughts of the entire department, are with the family of Trooper Stewart during this difficult time," State Police Commissioner Tyree C. Blocker said. "Trooper Stewart served the commonwealth honorably, and we join all Pennsylvanians to mourn his passing."

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf expressed his condolences in a statement, saying Stewart had shown honor and integrity.

"This young trooper's tragic death is a reminder of the selfless sacrifice made each day by every state trooper and their families," Wolf said.

Debbie McInchok, owner of McInchok Sanitation, expressed sympathy for Stewart's family.

"We don't want to see this happen to anybody," she told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's horrible."

She declined to discuss the crash.

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