In a moving funeral on Friday at the The Rock Church in San Bernardino, eight firefighters hoisted a flag-draped coffin into the back of a firetruck.
The casket contained the body of David Lodarski, a beloved 37-year-veteran of the Colton Fire Department, who was struck and killed by a suspected drunken driver one week before he was set to retire.
"He's been there longer than anyone in our department," said Colton Fire Capt. Con Cendejas. "He was just a great man to be around, always cheerful, always helpful."
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Lodarski and his son, Hunter, were going off-roading early Oct. 10 on Reche Canyon Road in Colton, when a driver of a Saturn sedan rear-ended Lordarski's ATV.
The impact caused the ATV to hit another vehicle, and the ATV overturned, said California Highway Patrol Officer Josh Carter.
Lodarski died an hour after the crash, according to the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office. His son, set to follow in his father's footsteps as a Colton firefighter, suffered a broken leg.
Lodarski demoted himself from fire captain to fire engineer two years ago so he could work side-by-side with Hunter, according to the Colton Fire Department's Facebook page. At his vigil on Wednesday night, Fire Chief Tim McHargue reinstated Lodarski as fire captain.
"It's a tough loss for us," Cendejas said. "We've never experienced this kind of loss before."
Kevin Paul Diehl, the suspected drunken driver, faces vehicular manslaughter and DUI charges causing death. It's not clear if he has an attorney.