From The Vault: Police Officer Mike Partin dies in fall off Ohio River bridge

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COVINGTON, Ky. – When a police officer or firefighter dies, his colleagues and the community grieve along with his family.

In the case of young Covington police officer Mike Partin, their grief and anxiety were compounded by the bizarre circumstances of his death and five months of searching and waiting for his body to be found.

Officer Mike Partin

Partin, 25, fell off an Ohio River bridge to his death while trying to help another officer capture a DUI suspect. It happened on Jan. 4, 1998 on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge between downtown Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky.

Partin, recently married and only 15 months on the job, answered a call for assistance from Kenton County officer Brian Kane. At 2 a.m., Kane had pulled over a driver at the foot of the bridge on West 4th Street in Covington. The driver ran onto the walkway on the side of the bridge and Kane radioed that he was chasing him.

Partin drove onto the bridge past the two men, stopped, and started running toward them. Kane had caught the suspect on the walkway and the man was resisting.

Partin vaulted over the concrete barrier between the roadway and the walkway, but in the darkness, he apparently didn't notice the 3-foot gap between them.  He fell about 90 feet into the icy water and drowned.

Photo shows the 3-foot gap between the walkway (left) and roadway on the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge

A frantic search ensued, first by boat, then by divers. But minutes turned to hours, hours turned to days, and days turned to weeks. Despite valiant efforts by dozens of divers, Tri-State police and fire departments and more than 100 volunteers, Partin's body could not be found. Divers were hampered by strong currents, muddy water and debris. They couldn't see in the darkness at depths below 10 feet.

Officials figured the officer's body, weighted down by 20 pounds of police gear, had sunk 40 feet to the bottom. In February, they called off the search, believing it would not surface until the waters warmed in the spring.

In the meantime, Partin's widow Lisa and stepdaughter could not receive survivor's benefits because his body hadn't been recovered.  Covington police held fundraisers to assist them.

After 134 days, the agonizing wait ended on May 18. A barge worker spotted Partin's body near a boat about 1-1/2 miles west of the Anderson Ferry. That was about 9-1/2 miles downstream from the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge.

The east-side Cincinnati native – Partin had graduated from Glen Este High School and Northern Kentucky University -  was buried with full police honors. His funeral was held in the same Anderson Township church where he had been married 13 months before. A 5-mile procession of police vehicles accompanied his body across the river on the Combs-Hehl Bridge to the cemetery in Fort Mitchell. A street behind the Covington police station was renamed in his honor.

The driver who ran from Kane, 20-year-old Shawnta Robertson of Cincinnati, was convicted of manslaughter in Partin's death. Robertson was sentenced to six years in prison but was paroled after two.

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