Friday, April 15, 2011

TOP STORY > >Chief consoles officer after wife’s death

Leader staff writer

The wife of an Austin police officer was killed Thursday morning in a two-vehicle accident on T.P. White Drive outside Cabot in Pulaski County.

Police chiefs from across Lonoke County, who met at noon Thursday in Ward for their quarterly meeting, said Danielle Gardner, 26, of Beebe was talking on a cell phone to her husband, Josh, when one wheel dropped off the pavement. She over-corrected, lost control and hit an electric-utility bucket truck.

Austin Police Chief John Staley did not attend the meeting because he was with his officer, the other chiefs said.

Lt. Carl Minden, spokesman for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, said Friday that he had heard the couple was talking at the time of the accident, but he could not confirm it. Neither could he confirm that Gardner lost control of the SUV she was driving because a wheel dropped off the pavement.

An accident-reconstruction team was trying to determine the cause, Minden said.

Gardner worked as a scrub tech at a local hospital. She had two children.

“It’s always hard when we lose somebody so close,” Staley said in a press release on Friday. “There are truly no words that can express the pain the family is experiencing right now. I ask that everyone please keep this family in their prayers.”

Staley has set up an account at First Arkansas Bank and Trust for the young family under the name Chief John Staley for Josh and Danielle Gardner Family. Donations may also be made at the Austin Police Department.

The two men in the utility truck, driver David Harbor and passenger Anthony Duvall, were taken by ambulance to St. Vincent’s North.