WILTON — The tragic loss of New York State Trooper Timothy Pratt, 55, on Wednesday, October 26, as a result of a traffic accident on Ballard Road in Wilton, has left a gaping hole in the hearts of the Capital Region. The shock and grief extended statewide as well as close to home. Governor Andrew Cuomo remembered Trooper Pratt leading last month’s 9/11 motorcade memorial, and he ordered all flags to half staff.
Wilton Town Board Councilman John Lant, a former fire chief, said he couldn’t believe it when he received the phone call with the news.
“I worked with him on many accidents and fires,” said Lant, his voice filled with emotion. “He was a good guy, an outstanding state trooper. I thought the world of that guy. Unbelievable. He’s a great loss.”
Art Johnson, Wilton Town Supervisor, said, “All the troopers in the town provide such a wonderful service and we appreciate all of them. Our thoughts and prayers go with the family.”
New York State Police Troop G Commander Major William Keeler described the incident at a press conference Wednesday, saying, “By all accounts, at 6:30 this morning, it was dark, and Trooper Pratt, beginning his patrol, observed a tractor trailer stopped in the median on Ballard Road just in front of the state police barracks in Wilton, and Trooper Pratt, being Trooper Pratt, immediately went to see if he could be of any assistance. He interviewed the driver and the driver told him that he had missed a turn at the Ace Hardware store, and Trooper Pratt was going to assist in getting the vehicle turned around. Trooper Pratt stepped down from the vehicle, stepped away from the vehicle, into the east bound lane and was struck.”
State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II added, “He was a 30-year trooper who still had the fire in him. He enjoyed doing the job, and died the way he lived, helping people.”
Trooper Pratt was initially treated at Saratoga Hospital, and was airlifted to Albany Medical Center where he died at approximately 9:30 a.m. Trooper Mark Cepiel, public information officer for Troop G, confirmed charges were unlikely, but the investigation is not closed. He said a collision reconstruction unit with investigators trained beyond normal investigation techniques will continue looking at the evidence.
The fact that one simple act, done a thousand times over a career, could be the last one, is a danger faced every day by traffic duty and highway patrol law enforcement.
Beach said at the press conference that Trooper Pratt had more than 25 years of experience working the highway unit on the Northway. “It’s probably some of the most dangerous work that our troopers do,” said Beach. “It’s almost inconceivable to us that Tim could spend that much time working in such a dangerous situation and have a tragedy like this happen. It’s difficult to process.” Beach went on to confirm that most of the on-duty deaths in last 10 years have been traffic accidents.
“I’d like to thank the EMS responders and people who rendered aid to Tim, and the staffs at the hospitals in both Saratoga and Albany who did everything they could,” said Beach.
Beach also confirmed that Trooper Pratt’s family would become members of the greater New York State family. “Never alone,” said Beach before he left the podium Wednesday.
Trooper Pratt joined the New York State Police on March 30, 1987, after serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1979 to 1986. Trooper Pratt was assigned to the Traffic Incident Management unit at the State Police station in Wilton. He served his entire career with the State Police in Troop G.
The Honorable David Towne, Wilton Town Justice, had served in law enforcement over 30 years and knew Trooper Pratt well.
“He was a great guy, a credit to law enforcement,” said Towne. He said people who were ticketed by Pratt often went out of their way to write about the positive interaction they had with him in the space for comments on the back of traffic citations.
“It’s shocking when you know someone fairly well,” said Towne. “Law enforcement is a unique brotherhood. I know they are going through tough times right now and doing what they can for each other to make it through. He perished doing what he was made to do, lending a hand.”
The Honorable Gerald A. Worth, Wilton Town Justice, said it’s difficult for them in the court, too. “We dealt with him for so long, and he was always in a good mood, laughing, joking around. There’s going to be thousands of people wanting to pay their respects.”
Trooper Cepiel said Trooper Pratt was involved heavily in the community, especially at South Glens Falls High School.
“He worked the dance they have there every year, except for those years he was in the military,” said Cepiel. “It is great way to remember him for things like that he did. It’ll be tough for the community because he was integrated so much. People can take solace in the fact that this is what he loved to do.”
Lant remembered being at a banquet at the fire department, sitting with his wife and mother, when Trooper Pratt walked up to him and said, “Okay, you’re going with me.”
“Then he took his handcuffs out. You should have seen my mother’s eyes,” Lant laughed. “I had tears running down. First time I ever met him, he put out a fire and I told him that was our job, not his, and I’d start giving out speeding ticket. That’s how we became friends.”
Lant was quiet a moment, and then said, his voice choking, “An outstanding trooper. An outstanding friend. It’s everybody’s loss. The people of the State – everyone.”
On Wednesday evening, October 26, the trooper’s body was transported by hearse from Albany Medical Center to M.B. Kilmer Funeral Home in South Glens Falls. About a hundred police cars followed in the procession, which passed beneath an American flag hanging between two fire truck ladders. A crowd had gathered as the procession turned into the funeral home, and police and fire personnel stood in the street, honoring their fallen comrade.
Details of the line-of-duty funeral arrangements were not available by print time, but the office of the Village of South Glens Falls confirmed a candle light vigil will be held on Sunday, October 30, at the gazebo in Cooper’s Cave Park in the village. Speakers and bagpipes are planned to honor Trooper Pratt, and although there will be some candles; it is recommended people bring their own.
South Glens Falls Mayor Joe Orlow said the fire department did a great job Wednesday night, honoring the fallen trooper during transport, and added, “We are a caring community, and I hope to see everyone come out Sunday night to pay their respects for this gentleman who gave so much to the community.”