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Pasadena police officer killed in central Texas wreck

Two veteran Pasadena police officers spent their careers surrounded
by danger at SWAT scenes, undercover narcotics cases and on patrol, but
it was a Friday evening drive through the Texas Hill Country on their day off that ended one of their lives and put the other in the hospital.

Larry Candelari, 49, was killed and Mike Huffman,
49, was seriously injured when they were hit by an 18-wheeler as they
tried to help a stranded motorist on Interstate 10 near Kerrville.

"They're both highly respected, well-qualified police officers," said Vance Mitchell, a spokesman for the Pasadena Police Department.  "It hurts to lose any of them, but they are very dear friends."

pair was returning from a hunting trip about 9:40 p.m. Friday when they
stopped, with other motorists, to help with the driver of a vehicle
that had lost its trailer, Mitchell said.

A pickup truck hit a
U-Haul trailer, forcing it loose from the sedan that was pulling it. The
trailer drifted into the left lane of the highway, while the car pulled
over to the right.

To try to help the motorists, Candelari and
Huffman pulled over, along with at least one other car. After the two
officers got out their vehicle, an 18-wheeler veering to miss the
trailer crashed into the parked vehicles on the right shoulder of a
bridge, investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety said.

"The 18-wheeler comes barreling down the road and doesn't hit the brakes until he hits vehicles," said Andy Lewis, who witnessed the accident.

charges have been filed and the wreck remains under investigation.
Crash investigators did not suspect the driver of the 18-wheeler of
being intoxicated, but said he might have been impaired by fatigue.

18-wheeler driver, who declined to identify himself, said he tried to
stop as fast as he could. The driver said he clipped the U-Haul trailer
and might have had enough room to pass it safely had there not been
vehicles parked there.

The 18-wheeler crushed one car against the bridge's guardrail, trapping an elderly man and woman in the car.

and Huffman were standing on the bridge just before the second crash,
the semi driver said. Candelari went over the side of the bridge and
died at the scene. Huffman was among four people injured in the crash.
He was flown to University Hospital in San Antonio, where the lower part of one of his legs was amputated, Mitchell confirmed.

tragedy left area law enforcement agencies reeling. A caravan of
roughly 50 area peace officers was sent to the Hill Country to help.

"They were amazing, outstanding," Tamara Spencer, a League City Police Department
spokeswoman, said of the pair. She said the League City and Pasadena
police departments work closely together and train together.

has such an outstanding department anyway and he was just one of their
best SWAT guys," she said of Candelari. "And Mike (Huffman) is the
toughest cop I've ever met."

Spencer said both men were generous
with their time and she said she was not surprised they stopped to help
people in a bad situation.

"You're looking at these two tough
SWAT guys who could lose their lives in a bank robbery or dealing with a
barricaded person on any given day and this happens," she said. "It's
just something you never expect."



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