Community mourns death of young highway patrolman, James Bava
COLUMBIA - Flags across Missouri continue to fly at half staff in memory of Missouri Highway Patrol Trooper James Bava. Bava, 25 was attempting to overtake a traffic violator Friday morning in Audrain County when his car veered left, crashed into trees, overturned and caught fire. Bava is the 31st death since the Missouri Highway Patrol began in 1931.
Patrol Trooper Gary Gundy, a proud father and husband, believes he has seen it all in his 26 years on the force. The Columbia resident said he feels lucky to be alive and to be serving the community he loves.
"We do dangerous things, and quite frankly I'm surprised we don't lose more troopers in the line of duty," said Gundy, who has served the state of Missouri since 1989.
Troopers are lost in the line of duty for a multitude of reasons: shootouts, car accidents and weather related incidents among other occurrences. Even seemingly small tasks like changing a tire can put a trooper beside a busy highway in jeopardy.
"In the winter when we send out advisories to stay home and not drive their cars because its so dangerous out, we put more troopers out on the road. We drive in the worst weather conditions," said Gundy.
Six months of intensive training and three months of shadowing are essential to become a state trooper. Gundy said that all the while you are under a spotlight, being constantly evaluated by a senior highway patrolman. Bava had only finished his training 2 years ago.
While he has been shot at and almost stabbed, Gundy has a true passion for his profession. He wants people to know that writing tickets is only a small fraction of what patrolmen do. "I would just as soon change someone's tire for them as write a ticket, I enjoy helping people out," he said.
Bava's death has united members of the Highway Patrol across the state. In memory of Bava, all troopers wear a memorial pin and a trooper car will receive a sticker dedicated to Bava.
"My heart goes out to the parents and family of Trooper Bava. But I am sure even though I didn't know Trooper Brava, that he enjoyed his job because I meet very few troopers who don't," Gundy said.