Couple killed in state police crash remembered fondly

EAST COCALICO TWP., Pa. - Friends are remembering a couple who tragically lost their lives when their car was hit by a police SUV that was responding to an emergency call over the weekend.

People who knew Michele and James Cooling said their deaths are tragic, but even more so, when you lose such lovely people.

A display of two white crosses merged into one symbolizes the Coolings.

"I was really surprised. I mean really shook up about it," said neighbor Lester Schmeck.

The Coolings died Saturday morning in a crash on Route 422 in South Heidelberg Township. State police said a trooper hit their car while rushing to help a Western Berks Regional police officer who issued a call for help.

The impact pushed the Lancaster County couple's car into another vehicle, and it burst into flames. Schmeck said he'll remember the couple for their generosity.

"I can't say anything bad about them the years I've known him or her," he said.

He lived next door to the couple for the last few years.

"He was the kind of neighbor, he'd help you with anything he could," said Schmeck.

He said Cooling would cut his grass and do other odd jobs around the house for him, often without being asked.

"He was glad to do it. You don't find a lot of people like that nowadays. No you don't. He was helpful in every way."

Schmeck said the Coolings were looking forward to retiring.

"I guess that was one thing he looked forward to, do a little traveling and meet some of the old friends he used to have," Schmeck said.

The neighbor said it's strange looking over at the quiet house, and knowing he'll never see them again is hard.

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