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New York State Trooper Dies After Cruiser Struck

ALBANY, N.Y. -- It was a somber day Tuesday at the State Police Academy as officials announced the death of Trooper David Cunniff, whose cruiser was hit from behind by a tractor trailer Monday night on the Thruway.

Cunniff, 35, a trooper for nine years most recently assigned to Troop T's Fonda-Fultonville barracks, was one hour into his shift patrolling the Thruway around 8 p.m. when he pulled over Eric Heller for speeding near Exit 27.

"A truck hit him from behind, pushing him off the right shoulder of the highway and partially ejecting Trooper Cunniff from his cruiser and causing him massive head injuries ," Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said Tuesday at a press conference. "The truck then continued on and hit Heller's car, coming to rest on top of it."

Cunniff of Duanesburg, is survived by his wife, Amy, and two young sons, Caleb, 6, and Zachary, 4.

Heller, 57, of Stony Creek, Warren County, was extricated from the wreck. He was listed in fair condition Tuesday at Albany Medical Center Hospital.

During the press conference, D'Amico said Cunniff was in grave condition and on life support at Albany Med, surrounded by his family.

He never regained consciousness D'Amico said.

"This is especially hard on his family, his young wife and kids, especially this time of the year, and all our best wishes and prayers go out to them," D'Amico said.

Less than an hour later, state police announced Cunniff's death.

The tractor-trailer hauling insulation and driven by Gary Blakley, 65, of Ridgeway, Ontario, Canada, was in the left lane on the two-lane highway, D'Amico said. It appeared Blakley pulled into the right lane to take the off-ramp at Exit 27 and hit the cruiser in the break-down lane.

The cause of the crash is unclear, D'Amico said, but neither weather conditions nor alcohol were to blame.

No tickets were issued but the State Police and its Bureau of Criminal Investigation are continuing their investigation.

Blakley was not injured.

D'Amico said it would be up to the Montgomery County District Attorney's office whether any serious charges will be lodged in the case.

It was not clear whether Blakley violated the Move Over law, which requires drivers to move one lane to the left when approaching a stopped police or emergency vehicle with its emergency lights on.

D'Amico said Cunniff's emergency lights were flashing.

The crash closed the eastbound lanes of the Thruway in Amsterdam for more than nine hours.

Cunniff also previously worked in troops B and G and was a member of the Executive Services Detail at the state Capitol.

In March 2012, the troopers Police Benevolent Association held a fundraiser for Cunniff's son Caleb, 6, who suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II, according to the PBA's website.

"We raised the money to get the family a wheelchair for Caleb," D'Amico said.

Funeral arrangements will be announced.

Copyright 2013 - Times Union, Albany, N.Y.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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