Officer, dog killed in crash identified

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WARNER SPRINGS, Calif. — Officials released the names of a state corrections officer and service dog who were killed Monday when their patrol car crashed on State Route 79, east of Lake Henshaw.

Gilbert Cortez and his Belgian Malinois named Mattie

Gilbert Cortez and his Belgian Malinois named Mattie

The marked Ford Crown Victoria was in a small caravan of prison vehicles headed to La Cima Fire Camp when it veered out of control for unknown reasons and overturned about a half-mile from San Felipe Road in the Warner Springs area shortly before 7:30 a.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

“The vehicle rolled several times and came to rest on its wheels,” said CHP officer Brian Pennings.

Officer Cortez was unconscious as the other officers pulled him from the wreckage of the late model Ford Crown Victoria, he said. An ambulance then took him to the Warner Springs Fire Station, where a helicopter waited.

“Unfortunately, before they could get the officer in the air ambulance he succumbed to his injuries,” said Pennings.

His service dog, Maddie, died at the scene of the crash.

According to statements from the three other officers in the caravan, they were traveling at a safe speed between 50 or 60 mph.Officer Gilbert Cortez

A union official within the California Corrections Peace Officer Association said that Officer Cortez had reported several mechanical issues with his car in the past.

An investigation is underway to determine what happened, but for those in uniform the pain of losing their own never easy.

“We cover fatalities all the time and it never gets easy and especially difficult when it involves another officer,” Pennings said.

Authorities closed the two-lane rural road in the area until early afternoon to allow for investigations and cleanup.

11 comments

  • Barbara

    My condolences to the Cortez Family and of course Maddie, you will be missed by me and Mr. Babbitt.

  • lorenaLSR

    my prayers and deepest condolences to the family…rest in peace…god give the family strength to keep going,may the angels comfort their hearts and wipe all tears,sorry for your loss,god bless

  • JScully

    Condolences to the officers family, and may he and Mattie RIP together I'm sure they were best friends. This is truly so sad, just doing his job.

  • Dave

    Feel sorry for the familys loss. Why didn^t the corrections department give him a better car? It is said he has had b several problems with the cat!

  • gianni

    That was my tio who had past away. But now he's in a better place right now. So god bless my tio gilbert, my two cousins, and especially my tia noma.

  • Anonymous

    You will Truly be missed by ALL of us at CRC. I am personally blessed to have known you as a fellow Officer and a Friend. Keep a watch over all of us my Friend.

  • Dale Burnham

    Anytime an officer goes down, a great loss is felt! Because of budget cutacks the state decides that vehicle maintainance can be cut back. Used to be cars were replaced at 125,000 miles with good maintainance, now, probably 200,000 miles with poor maintainance. Don't blame the mechanics, blame the bean counters.

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