Sign will mark spot where deputy was hit by drunk driver in 1989

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 June 2016 at 12:00 am

Crash led to death of David Whittier

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – The family of David Whittier is pictured with Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower this afternoon when a roadside was unveiled to mark the spot on Gaines basin Road in Albion where Whittier was fatally injured in 1989. Bower is pictured with Whittier’s daughter Kellie Spychalski, Whittier’s wife Connie and son Thad Whittier, who all live in Holley.

The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office had a reception this afternoon to unveil the sign that will likely be installed on Tuesday on the west side of Gaines Basin Road, about 1/8 mile south of Route 104.

David Whittier worked 20 years at Kodak before following his dream of being a police officer. He was hired as a full-time deputy on June 22, 1987.

Whittier made many arrests for people driving while intoxicated. Ironically on Jan. 19, 1989, Whittier was on routine road patrol when he came upon an unoccupied pickup truck on Gaines Basin Road. The driver of that truck was out hunting.

David Whittier

While Whittier was inspecting the truck a young man who was driving drunk struck the parked pickup truck. Whittier had dove between the pickup and his patrol car. He was crushed between the two vehicles after the pickup was hit. He was then dragged about 100 feet and left for dead under the truck.

He survived the accident and remained in the hospital until April 1989. After being home for a few months, his condition did not improve. He had contracted cancer, which doctors said was trauma induced. Doctors said his immune system was too compromised due to injuries sustained from the accident. He and his family were advised that treatment was not an option and would only cause further pain and suffering.

Whittier was 41 when he died on Sept. 8, 1989. About 700 people, including police officers around the state, attended his funeral in Clarendon at the Disciples United Methodist Church.

“We are so pleased and humbled the sheriff would remember our family more than 27 years later,” said Spychalski, who was 21 and in college when her father was hit by the drunk driver. “We miss him and think about him every day.”

The sign was designed by Deputy James DeFilipps and made by the Genesee County Highway Department. Gaines Basin Road is a county-owned road. The sign will be installed by the Orleans County Highway Department.

Spychalski named her son, David, after her father. Her son is now nearly 25.

As her father’s condition worsened, Spychalski said her father wanted Mrs. Whittier to let the driver know he forgave him for the crime.

Whittier is the only deputy to die in the line of duty in Orleans County history.

He was a popular, well-liked man, his wife recalled. He was lead singer in the band, Defiance, and played in weddings for many of his police officer friends.

“He was a good guy,” she said. “Everybody loved David. He really, truly loved his job. He gave his life for it.”