Police mourn mate -- Driver, 20, charged over horrific road death

By SAMANTHA HEALY

GRIEF-stricken Tweed police were yesterday coming to grips with the tragic loss of one of their own, Senior Constable David John McCormack.

The 42-year-old Tweed Heads detective was killed in an horrific crash on the Pacific Highway between Coffs Harbour and Grafton as he made his way home from a rugby game near Port Macquarie on Sunday afternoon.

Described as a "top bloke" by his comrades, Snr Const McCormack's sudden death has left his colleagues, friends, family and the rugby community in utter shock. He is survived by his wife Fiona and three teenage children Adam, Hamish and Kaitlen.

"He will be sorely missed. His desk is empty and it just doesn't feel right," Detective Josh Burton said.

"The guys aren't taking it well at all." Police officers, angry at how their friend and colleague died, said it was understood he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mark Bombardieri, 20, from Chevron Island, faced Grafton Local Court yesterday charged with aggravated dangerous driving occasioning death while escaping a pursuit, a deadly chase that claimed the life of the off-duty career policeman. Police evidence tendered to court said Bombardieri was pursued by an unmarked police car after he was detected travelling south at high speed along the Pacific Highway in a South Australian-registered white BMW sedan.

Police allegedly called off the pursuit, but followed the car when it turned into a side road, colliding with the BMW.

The court heard Bombardieri then drove away from the police car, again heading south where he travelled onto the incorrect side of the road, forcing an oncoming vehicle to swerve to avoid collision.

Sen Const McCormack, the driver of the oncoming vehicle, allegedly overcorrected , his vehicle spinning into the southbound lane, crashing head-on with a semi-trailer.

Bombardieri allegedly failed to stop, but was found by police pulled over in a nearby lane. Police claimed there was video footage of the entire incident, however Bombardieri's defence told the court he was unaware of the footage and said his client was not involved in the crash.

Following his arrest, Bombardieri allegedly admitted to driving at speeds of up to 180 kilometres an hour, and said he suffered from bipolar disorder and depression. He was refused bail.

After dedicating his life to protecting others, Snr Const McCormack's life was cut short by the wreckless behaviour he had sworn to protect the community against. "His family is absolutely devastated," Det Burton said.

"We're all devastated. He was one of the world's best blokes."

Anyone with information about the crash is urged contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. The crash is being investigated by the Coroner.

'Big Rig' revered by mates AFFECTIONATELY known as "Big Rig", Senior Constable David John McCormack was solid in both stature and personality.

Described as a mad rugby fan, a top bloke, a good policeman and a bit of a crooner, very few people would ever have had a bad word to say about him.

One colleague from Tweed Heads Police said Snr Const McCormack, 42, was "very committed and a great believer in the concept of justice".

"He had an artform when it came to getting to the bottom of something," his colleague said.

"He was always out there trying to do the right thing by people.

"He was always good for a laugh and he had a beautifully dry sense of humour."

Twenty years serving the NSW community, Snr Const McCormack died in a tragic accident on the Pacific Highway on Sunday afternoon.

He was on his way home from watching the Hastings Valley Vikings under 18s, a club he founded in 1996, win their grand final on Saturday with a convincing 36-0 victory against Coffs Harbour. Vikings president Chris Trutwein knew Snr Const McCormack well, both as a police officer and through the club, and said he would be sorely missed by many people. "It's a great loss," Mr Trutwein said. "There are a lot of people really upset here (Hastings Valley and Port Macquarie)."

"He walked in (to the grand final) and everyone knew him. He was very well-respected down here."

He also represented the NSW%Police Country Rugby Union team.

Colleagues from Tweed Heads and Kingscliff Police stations were shell-shocked yesterday as news spread of their mate's death, with the bubbly station officers noticeably quieter than usual, the thin blue line clearly devastated.

"We used to muck around and call him Australian Idol," a colleague said.

"He had a really good voice and used to walk around the station singing, singing in the truck too.

"He was always singing Aussie rock songs from the eighties."

Despite their loss yesterday, police from the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command continued their duties, protecting and serving the community, responding to a litany of domestic violence reports, car crashes and break-and-enters.

But their "mate" was never far from their minds.

Superintendent Michael Kenny said the loss of Snr Const McCormack, a highly-valued member of the NSW Police Force, was being acutely felt throughout the command. "He was affectionately known as the "Big Rig" and was extremely popular with friends from all walks of life," Supt Kenny said. "He was a great mentor to the younger officers and was never too busy to offer advice based on his sound knowledge of the law and%investigative process."

Sen Const McCormack started with the NSW Police in 1987 and worked at Queanbeyan, Gulargambone, Port Macquarie and Kingscliff before transferring to Tweed Heads detectives. Snr Const McCormack's funeral, which will most likely draw a huge number of mourners, is expected to be held in Tugun later this week.



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