GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A Gulfport officer died Thursday after his police motorcycle collided with a car on busy Highway 49 in Orange Grove. Rob Curry, 39, was pronounced dead at Garden Park Medical Center about an hour after the late morning accident.
Lt. Curry was a 14 year veteran of the Gulfport Police Department. He had recently been assigned as officer in charge of the traffic division. Before joining the police department, he was in the Air Force.
Chief Alan Weatherford called the death a "tremendous loss" to our police family. He said Rob Curry enjoyed his work and loved riding the motorcycle.
The chief joined Mayor Brent Warr at a news conference Thursday afternoon calling on the community to pray for Rob Curry's family and the grieving police department.
The sense of tragedy at the crash site was immediate and foreboding. Officers prayed together for their fallen brother, while others quickly cordoned off the accident site.
"At about 10:27 this morning, here on Highway 49 north in Orange Grove, one of our motor officers was involved in an accident," officer Rick Fisher said.
It was a typical heavy traffic morning on the usually congested section of 49 near the Post Office. Plenty of witnesses recounted what they saw. A visibly shaken Victoria Mayberry watched the tragedy unfold.
"The lady was watching the traffic to get out. She didn't see him. She was looking beyond him. She was trying to get up on the turning lane. She'd come out from the Post Office," Mayberry said. "When she hit him, I hollered, 'Oh Lord!' I did."
Minutes after the crash, dozens of police officers and emergency crews were on the scene. Some investigated the wreck while others took statements or just comforted one another. They sensed the tragedy that would be confirmed less than three hours later.
"The Gulfport Police Department is sad to announce the loss of officer Rob Curry. Lt. Rob Curry of the Gulfport Police traffic division, who was assigned as a motor officer, died as a result of injuries he suffered in a crash on Highway 49 north of Community Road. He was on duty and operating his police motorcycle at the time of the crash," Police Chief Alan Weatherford said.
Gulfport's mayor called the fallen officer and military veteran an American hero. He asked the community for prayer.
"I ask that everyone keep the Curry family in your prayers. Also, we would ask that the officers of City of Gulfport be kept in your prayers and your thoughts; mournful consideration given to them," Mayor Brent Warr said.
Biloxi Police and the Mississippi Highway Patrol are in charge of the accident investigation. Those agencies have not yet released a report.
The driver of the car was visibly shaken at the scene, but she was not seriously injured.
Thursday evening, Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove announced that an autopsy showed that Lt. Curry died from internal bleeding caused by blunt trauma to his chest.
Officer Curry is survived by his wife Leslie Curry, who is also a lieutenant with Gulfport Police Department. The couple has two small children.
Curry's death is the second in as many weeks for South Mississippi law enforcers. Jackson County deputy and former Gulfport officer Fred Gaston was killed August 9th.