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  Illinois State Police News Release   

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Illinois State Police Honor 1st Female Trooper to Serve Land, Air, & Sea

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Press Release Date: October 30, 2014    || Archived February 5, 2016

Trooper Erin Hehl Memorial Overpass Sign Posted on I-55 at IL Route 83

BURR RIDGE – Officials from the Illinois State Police (ISP) were joined by friends, family colleagues, and members of the law enforcement community to honor fallen ISP Trooper Erin Sweeney Hehl, #3863 and civilian pilot George Kurelic, Jr., during a special dedication ceremony at the Burr Ridge Police Department.

Law enforcement officials from the Illinois State Police announced that the Trooper Erin Hehl Memorial Overpass signs were posted by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) earlier this year on both sides of the IL Route 83 overpass at Interstate 55.  Since 2012, IDOT has posted three memorial signs in honor of ISP fallen troopers killed in the line of duty (Troopers Anthony Millison, Kyle Deatherage and Erin Hehl).  

Also recognized during the ceremony was Mr. George Kurelic, Jr., the civilian pilot, U.S. Marine, and Army National Guard soldier, who was also killed during the fatal helicopter crash at Frankfort Airport on October 30, 1997.  A memorial at the ISP northern Air Operations Bureau is also being designated to reflect Kurelic’s honor.

The dedication ceremony opened with an ISP commemorative video, Always Remember, followed by an opening prayer from ISP Chaplain Father Hal Stanger.  The video is a historic snapshot of all ISP members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and honors all of its fallen heroes killed in the line of duty.

“While we cannot bring our heroes back, we can honor their dedication to service and reflect upon the selfless calling of this noble profession,” said ISP Director Hiram Grau.  “The highest honor that can be bestowed upon an Illinois State Police officer or any member of the law enforcement community is to remember them for their bravery, courage and character.  The memorial signs remind family, friends, colleagues and motorists of the risks and dangers taken every day by police officers,” Grau added.

Trooper Erin Hehl was an 11 year veteran of the Illinois State Police, beginning her career in 1986 as a trooper in District 3, now District Chicago.  In1987.  Hehl joined the ISP Marine Patrol unit where she became a certified diver.  In 1995, Trooper Hehl joined the department’s Air Operations unit as part of a pilot helicopter program, making her the first female trooper to serve on land, air and sea.  During her assignment with the helicopter unit, Trooper Hehl received a private pilot certificate with a helicopter rating and clocked 70 hours of flying time experience. 

Trooper Erin Sweeney Hehl was born in Chicago and graduated from Niles Township High School.  She held a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. 

Trooper Erin Sweeney Hehl was posthumously promoted to Sergeant.

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