Lodi Fire Capt. Joe Hansen was killed in a motorcycle accident near the town of Pioneer in Amador County early Friday morning.
A 25-year veteran of the Lodi Fire Department, Hansen, 51, was traveling west on Highway 88 just east of Foster Meadow Road sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. when his 2004 BMW motorcycle apparently collided with a snow marker along the road, according to a collision report from the California Highway Patrol.
Hansen was thrown from his motorcycle, the report stated, and he suffered fatal injuries. It is unclear at this time why Hansen veered off the road.
According to CHP Officer Craig Harmon, a motorist driving along the road around 1:30 a.m. found Hansen.
So far, Harmon said, there have been no witnesses to the accident. The incident is still under investigation, he said.
Hansen’s wife Natalie and son Alex were not available for comment as of press time.
The news of Hansen’s death broke on the Lodi Police Department’s Facebook page Friday morning.
Members of the Lodi Fire Department were struggling with the news of Hansen’s death, Fire Chief Larry Rooney said, particularly because it was so sudden.
Rooney said Hansen’s years with the department meant all 50-odd firefighters had worked with him at one point, and his death had affected everyone.
He was supposed to be on duty this morning, Rooney said; his name was still on the shift list.
Firefighters were gathered at Fire Station 1 on Elm Street on Friday, some seen walking around, staring at the ground. Others were gathered and talking about their memories of Hansen, a man known for his big hugs and big smiles.
“I have been here the shortest amount of time, but it is still tough,” Rooney said. “All I have heard all day was how outgoing and kind he was.”
News of Hansen’s death came as a complete shock to many, particularly to his neighbors, who had not yet heard the news Friday afternoon.
Hansen’s home on Medallion Way in Lodi was silent, his truck parked in the driveway. The street was quiet, save for a few children riding their scooters at the end of the block.
Both Barbara and Mike Knight’s jaws dropped upon hearing the news.
At one point, Barbara Knight sat down on a bench outside her home, her head in her hands, sobbing.
The Knights said they had always enjoyed chats with Hansen during the six years they were neighbors.
“He was just a down-to-Earth, nice guy who went out of his way to be nice to all of his neighbors,” Barbara Knight said.
Hansen, who liked to go ocean diving, would often bring his neighbors abalone from his trips on the coast. Mike Knight described how they could drive all the way to a fishing spot, and then Hansen would discourage them from going into the water because the conditions were too rough.
“He was always safety-oriented,” he said.
Mike Knight added that he always appreciated Hansen’s friendship. He said it was not uncommon for Hansen to come over and sit down to chat with the Knights.
“He was just one of those people; I doubt he had an enemy in his life,” Mike Knight said.
Many in the community said that Hansen was a dedicated fireman, honorable and professional.
In an outpouring of support on the Lodi Police Department’s Facebook page, many said their thoughts and prayers are with Hansen’s wife and son.
Mayor JoAnne Mounce said Hansen’s untimely death was a “great loss” for the department.
Memorial service plans for Hansen have yet to be made, Rooney said.
Hansen’s death marks the second fatal motorcycle accident and third fatal road accident involving a Lodi resident in the past month.
On April 28, 61-year-old Lodi resident David Smith was killed after his motorcycle collided with a 1994 Honda Accord on Highway 12 between Fairfield and Rio Vista.
On April 6, Lodi resident Steve Nelson, 54, was killed on Highway 92 in San Mateo after his big-rig crashed on a connector ramp.
Reporter Maggie Creamer contributed to this story.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.