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.
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.