Local News

Sanford police officer dies during training

Posted July 6, 2011 12:57 p.m. EDT
Updated July 7, 2011 11:07 a.m. EDT

— A Sanford police officer died Tuesday during a training exercise, police said Wednesday.

Elieser Colonroche, 55, was taking part in a training demonstration at Central Carolina Community College that involved officers rappelling down the side of a four-story tower when he crashed into the tower on his descent and apparently hurt his arm.

Sanford Police Capt. David Smith said Colonroche's death is under investigation but that it appears something went wrong with his gear and that his death was accidental.

Other officers took him to UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill for treatment, where physicians found extensive internal bleeding, police said. He died at the hospital.

"The rope just caught the wrong way and slammed him against the wall," Colonroche's son, Eli Colonroche Jr., said. "(Police) said he was OK on the ground, and then he didn't want to go to the hospital, but they forced him to go."

Colonroche, who was with the Sanford Police Department since 2002, spent 22 years as a member of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

As a policeman, he was an asset to the Sanford community.

“He was a great officer, well liked by fellow co-workers and the public," Smith said. "He treated everyone with respect – everybody the same. You couldn’t ask for a better police officer. He will be greatly missed.”

He had rappelled down buildings numerous times and made more than 5,000 jumps during his Army career.

His family still does not understand what went wrong.

"I can't believe that one of the greatest men I've ever known was talking to me on the Fourth of July and was gone the next day," Eli Colonroche said.

Elieser Colonroche, a father of three, was a daredevil who loved skydiving, his son said.

"They tell me all the time that he's crazy and hard-headed sometimes, but that's who he was," Eli Colonroche said. "He was a man who didn't give into fear at all. He never gave up living through life. He always pushed himself to be better."

The family will receive friends Saturday, July 9, at 6 p.m. at Bridges-Cameron Funeral Home in Sanford. A graveside service will be July 12 at 10 a.m. at the Sandhill’s State Veteran’s Cemetery in Spring Lake.