LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A Louisville Metro Police officer died on Saturday night after he was hit by a vehicle on Interstate 64 westbound on Saturday morning.
LMPD officer Zachary Cottongim was hit by a vehicle when a driver lost control just after 10 a.m. Saturday morning. He was outside of his police cruiser "conducting an investigation of a vehicle" on I-64 west at Mellwood Avenue, LMPD Officer Beth Ruoff said.
Cottongim, who has been with LMPD since 2014, died at University of Louisville Hospital.
"A really bright talented young man," LMPD chief Erika Shields said. "He was doing his job, as he did every day."
Shields said Cottongim, 29, was attempting to move an abandoned vehicle when he was hit.
The First Division officer was taken to University of Louisville Hospital with "serious injuries" and was undergoing surgery by 12:30 p.m. Shields said medical staff worked "tirelessly" on Cottongim for 10 hours, but he wasn't able to survive the injuries.
Cottongim's wife and father also work for LMPD, according to Shields. Cottongim also leaves behind two children.
"This is absolutely heartbreaking for the department," Shields said. "The department is reeling.
"There's not much you can offer folks, especially when there is a death that is so senseless and was avoidable."
All lanes on I-64 westbound at Mellwood Avenue and I-64 eastbound at Story Avenue were closed for several hours as police investigated the accident. The lanes were reopened around 3:20 p.m.
In a tweet, Mayor Greg Fischer said he is devastated by the death of Cottongim.
I am devastated by the passing of @LMPD Officer Zach Cottongim. Zach's family is beloved within our LMPD family — his father, Dale and wife, Jamie. 1/2— Mayor Greg Fischer (@louisvillemayor) December 19, 2021
"All of our city's prayers go to his family, his fellow law enforcement officers, all who cared and knew him, and all who were served by his generous spirit," Fischer said.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear also extended his condolences to the Cottongim family in a tweet.
"I was devastated to hear about the passing of LMPD officer Zach Cottongim this morning. Britainy and I extend our deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones as well as the entire LMPD mourning his loss," Beshear wrote.
"The sacrifice that he and his family made to our community can never be repaid, but we are here to do everything that we can to help an assist," said Metro Council President David James before recalling a familiar pain around the city saw around the holidays.
"This brings back memories of detective Deidre Mengedoht when she was killed on I-64,” said James, who retired as a Louisville Metro Police officer and knows all too well what's at stake.
"We lost a hero,” James said. “It's important to know that our officers in our city put their lives on the line everyday knowing the risk they take and do it anyways on our behalf."
Cottongim trained officers and worked different details during his time at LMPD.
Shields says LMPD will need to figure out a way to take care of Cottongim's wife and his two small children, along with the officers that found him at the scene of the crash.
"Now we have to navigate, ensuring that we are taking care of the officers in particular who rendered aid to him on the scene," Shields said. "It was obviously a very traumatic incident."
In a statement, Louisville Metro Council offered condolences to the officer's family.
"This officer's dedication to his community, despite all risks, is to be commended and never forgotten," Metro Council released in a statement. "We support you as you suffer this tremendous and heartbreaking loss."
This story may be updated.
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