When seven-year police veteran Eydelman Mani responded to a call for backup Tuesday, Houston's chief of police says the "black box" inside the vehicle recorded his top speed at 90 miles per hour. It also showed Mani driving at approximately 60 miles an hour when he collided head on into a guard rail along the North Freeway near Parker.
Chief McClelland said, "No, he was not buckled in."
Chief McClelland says it is a violation of not only department policy but state law for officers not to be belted in. He admits this has been an ongoing problem within the department. In recent years, he says HPD has gone so far as to conduct random checks of officers leaving for patrol to make sure they were wearing seatbelts. Chief McClelland says statistics show the lack of a seat belt claims more lives of officers than any other crime.
"More police officers are killed in the line of duty in vehicle crashes than they are by fire arms or other deadly weapons," Chief McClelland said.
The impact of the crash was so severe Officer Mani had to be cut from the wreckage.
Gary Blankenship with the Houston Police Officer's Union said, "I don't for the life of me know how a seat belt would have helped him at all."
Mani was 30 years old. He leaves behind a wife and a three-year-old son.
The union says the fact that Officer Mani wasn't wearing a seat belt will not affect any benefits due his family.
Houston's police chief also announced visitation and funeral arrangements for those interested in attending. Visitation will be held Friday from 6-9pm at Klein Funeral Home at 16131 Champion Forest Drive. Funeral mass will be held Saturday at noon at St. Charles Catholic Church at 501 Tidwell. Burial to follow at Hollywood Cemetery.
Donations to assist Officer Mani's family can be made to the 100 Club.