A San Pablo police officer was killed Thursday morning after his motorcycle collided with a pickup and a big-rig on westbound Interstate 80, according to the California Highway Patrol and San Pablo police.
Officer Ken Zink, 53, of Dixon, was traveling westbound on I-80 through Vallejo on a 2001 Harley Davidson motorcycle. He was splitting lanes between a Nissan Titan in one lane and a Freightliner truck with a flatbed trailer in another around 6:25 a.m., CHP Officer David Harvey said.
Zink somehow collided with the Nissan pickup, was ejected from the bike and then was hit by the big-rig, the CHP said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The nine-year veteran of the San Pablo Police Department was remembered by fellow officers as an exemplary member of the force who carried all the qualities one could ask for in a police officer: patience, compassion and kindness, the department said. He was selected by his peers as officer of the year in 2010. The department said he was on his way to work when the crash occurred.
Zink, a father of seven, was working as a resource officer for Helms Middle School in San Pablo. He was remembered there as the guy who would learn the names of every student and high-five them on the way into class.
"He liked to make special time with students, whether it was playing basketball with them or throwing a football," Helms Principal Jessica Petrilli said. "It's unexpected; it's an accident. Students were just in shock."
Zink had just started his duty at Helms, but he quickly made quite an impression.
"Really tough today," said an emotional Megan White, community schools coordinator.
On Thursday, students turned to writing messages for the beloved officer. More than 300 notes lined the walls of the school, some saying he was like a father and that he left a lasting mark.
"There were a number of kids he worked with; them and their families," said Gonzalo Rucobo, of Bay Area Peacekeepers. "This is an officer who not only did it during his time, but also on his own time."
The school has plans to have a memorial in the next couple of weeks so the students can honor him.
Zink also served six years on the police force in El Cerrito and was an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, the department said.
The San Pablo Police Employee’s Association has set up a GoFundMe account for Zink's family for assistance. Information on services was not available as of Thursday night.