Bethlehem chief says fallen officer memorial will be rebuilt after DUI crash

 

Concrete blocks and bricks littered the ground at Bethlehem's fallen officers memorial Saturday.

Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio said around 3:30 a.m. a driver suspected of DUI crashed into the monument on the north side of the Fahy Bridge.

DiLuzio said the driver veered off West Lehigh Street and crashed through the memorial. The driver was injured and will likely be facing DUI for drugs charges.

DiLuzio said a passenger fled the scene.

The crash remains under investigation.

"It just disgusted me, very devastating," DiLuzio said. "This is a memorial to fallen officers who gave their lives in the line of duty and it's very sad that a car would crash right through it like that."

The memorial honors six Bethlehem officers killed in the line of duty: Officer George Sherman who died in 1907, Officer Charles Lawrence who died in 1924, Officer Charles Fenton who died in 1927, officer Harry Stauss who died in 1932, Officer Phillip J. Fahy and Officer Daniel E. Rice who died in 1997.

The bridge near the monument is named for Fahy. The city marked 50 years since his death less than two weeks ago.

Diluzio said the city will survey the extent of the damage in coming days. He said the city will be sending the cost estimate to the driver's insurance company.

"That monument will be repaired and will rise from all the damage."

Michael Renninger of Bethlehem says he drives past the memorial nearly everyday. His brother, Seargant Mark Renninger, was among the many heroes memorialized on that wall. The Bethlehem native was one of four officers killed in November of 2009 when a gunman open-fired inside a Lakewood, Washington coffee house.

"I look at it as an open wound that will never heal it's sad, tragic," Renninger said.

In the wake of Saturday morning's crash, Renninger said he's hopeful it will be rebuilt. "I think to most people it's just a brick wall, but it means something to people affected," Renninger explained. "It's a place to come look, and remember them, it will be rebuilt."