Fair Grove, MO – Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Roberts died in the line of duty on Friday night, after fast-rising floodwaters swept his patrol vehicle off of a bridge.
Deputy Roberts, 36, had just cleared from a 911 hang-up call when the rapid water of the Pomme de Terre River rose up over the bridge he was traveling over on Cabin Creek Drive, and carried his vehicle downstream, KYTV reported.
He sent out a call from help over the police radio, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
A short while later, a search party comprised of multiple agencies found his body approximately 100 feet from the road, near his patrol car, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.
Fair Grove Fire Chief Erich Higgins said he had never seen the river rise so fast at that location, KYTV reported.
"The water was rising about half an inch to an inch every 30 minutes or so," Chief Higgins explained.
The bridge’s center sits lower than the rest of the road, KYTV reported.
Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott said that when the rain comes down heavily and covers the roadway at the bridge, “it could be six to eight feet deep.”
"You don't see it until you get here, and then there is the dip and there is the water and you don't have much time to react," resident Rachel Wilder added.
Nearly five inches of rain fell on Greene County on Friday night, KYTV reported.
Deputy Roberts joined the Greene County Sheriff’s Office just over a year ago, and previously served as a police officer in Willard for four years.
He graduated from the Drury University Law Enforcement Academy at the top of his class, and was always willing to help those who struggled to get through the grueling program, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
Sheriff Arnott described Deputy Roberts as an energetic officer, who enjoyed coming to work and loved his job, KYTV reported.
"He was really happy to work here," Sheriff Arnott told the Springfield News-Leader. "Even though he had been here a little over a year, everybody had kind of grown attached to him. He's got lots of friends here. Very good deputy."
Willard Police Chief Tom McClain agreed.
"He was compassionate, caring," Chief McClain told the Springfield News-Leader. "He was thorough in his investigations. He was the kind of officer that any agency would be blessed to have."
"He served hardily and with all his might," the chief added.
Deputy Roberts leaves behind a wife and young daughter.
"He was always talking about his wife and his daughter,” Greene County Sheriff’s Corporal Tim Haynes said. “I remember him, on more than one occasion, saying, 'I just love my wife.'”
“Deputy Roberts was very excited to come to work every day, but the highlight of his day was always his family,” the corporal said.
On Saturday night, hundreds of people gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the Greene County Sheriff’s Office headquarters, according to the Springfield News-Leader.
Some left flowers on the hood of Deputy Roberts’ patrol vehicle, while others shared stories about his life and the impact he made on them and others.
“We’re one large family, and then as you know law enforcement is an even larger family, and so we’ve got a lot of support, not only from each other, but from agencies around the state that have already reached out, and across the nation, and we’re glad that we have that, because we’ll need that," Sheriff Arnott told KYTV.
A fundraiser established to assist Deputy Roberts’ family in the wake of their loss had raised over $23,000 as of Monday night.
Deputy Roberts will be laid to rest on Thursday, according to the department.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Greene County Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron Roberts, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.