Sergeant Travis H. Maki

Sergeant Travis H. Maki

Elko County Sheriff's Office, Nevada

End of Watch Saturday, November 29, 1997

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Travis H. Maki

Sergeant Travis Maki was killed after falling from a freeway overpass while setting out flares at a traffic accident on I-80 near Deeth.

The previous crash had occurred on an icy bridge over railroad tracks. He was placing the flares on the roadway when a tractor trailer jack-knifed and slid on the ice, taking up the enter road surface. In attempt to avoid being struck by the trailer, Sergeant Maki fell over the railing and fell approximately 65 feet on the railroad right of way. He was killed instantly as a result of the fall.

The tractor trailer recovered from sliding and continued driving. The driver was never identified or located.

Sergeant Maki had served with the Elko County Sheriff's Office for 10 years. He is buried in Elko County Veterans Cemetery, Elko, Nevada.

Bio

  • Age 32
  • Tour 10 years
  • Badge Not available

Incident Details

  • Cause Fall

accident scene

Most Recent Reflection

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I have visited this and other similar websites numerous times over the last 23 years, checking in and reading reflections left by family and friends. As I stated in the reflection that I left 14 years ago, I did not know Travis, my one and only brief interaction with him was that night, mine was the last interaction he would have on this earth. He took the flares out of my hands that I was preparing to set out on that bridge, the weight of that has haunted me for years.

However, as I sit here now, older, longer in the tooth, I know that I must set the record straight, because what haunts me more than the survivors guilt that I carry, is when I read the reflections left by his family and friends. The questions that they clearly have about what happened that night, the uncertainty, the “what was he thinking?” I struggle with that because I know exactly what happened, I walked in his shoes, I retraced his final steps, and I was faced with a similar fateful decision. Travis was not confused, disoriented, or unaware, he was intentional the entire time, even before he arrived on scene.

Travis was there for me that night, I feel like I let him down all these years by not sharing this story. Other than this forum, I do not know how else to reach those that may benefit from it, I just pray that this brings healing and closure. This story is not about me, it is about Travis.

As I pointed out in my post 14 years ago, Sgt. Travis Maki and Deputy Jim Neff were set to meet for a prisoner relay near Halleck, this is approximately the halfway point between Wells and Elko. Deputy Neff and I had earlier responded to Montello, NV for a bar fight, that investigation led to an arrest of one of the participants. For those who do not know, the only detention facility is in Elko, so any arrestee would need to be transported all the way into Elko to be booked. Montello to Elko is a long drive, particularly when you have already worked a full shift, as was the case for Deputy Neff. I can only assume that the Elko Deputies were busy that night. I do not recall many Sergeants volunteering for this kind of duty, but as I would later find out, stepping up and volunteering for any assignment that needed getting done was certainly not beneath Sgt. Travis Maki.

At this point Deputy Neff was headed westbound to meet Sgt. Maki and I was headed home. My shift was over as well. I was just pulling into Wells, almost home, when I received a radio call of an injury traffic accident at the Deeth railroad overpass. This location is approximately 15-20 miles west of Wells, about a third of the way into Elko from Wells. Being the only State Trooper on duty in the area, I headed that way.

Although I was a State Trooper, my car radio had the ability to scan the channels of the other law enforcements agencies in the area. In a rural setting like North Eastern Elko County there was not much backup, so we looked out for each other. This is why a State Trooper was all the way out in Montello covering a Deputy at a bar fight. As I was getting close to the accident scene I heard “Sam 6” (Sgt. Maki) advise his dispatch that instead of meeting Neff at Halleck for the prisoner exchange, he would continue on up to the accident and meet with Neff there. This added another 15 miles or so to his drive and shortened Neff’s. I do not know why he made that decision; he certainly did not need to. As a State Trooper the accident was mine to deal with. However, I imagine Sgt. Maki could not take the thought of sitting idly by while just a few miles up the road an injured motorist needed help. Whatever his reasons, he made the decision to go to the accident scene to help where he could.

Sgt. Maki arrived on scene a few moments before I did, he met with the injured motorist and surveyed the scene. The ambulance, which came out of Wells was also on scene and was treating the passenger, thankfully they were not injured too seriously, a broken arm as I recall.

We are taught in the academy that one of the first things an officer must do upon arriving at the scene of a traffic accident is to step up traffic control. The purpose of this is too ensure safety of the crews on scene, this is usually accomplished by setting out flares or traffic cones well ahead of the accident scene with the goal of slowing oncoming traffic down.

I immediately got out of my car and went to my trunk to grab a handful of flares with the intention of setting up the traffic control. This is where my one and only interaction with Travis Maki occurred.

He approached me and suggested that I get started with the investigation, he quickly relayed that that there was an injured woman being treated inside the ambulance and suggested that I should meet with her. He told me that he would get the flares set up. As I look back now, I realize the very deliberate nature of our interaction. There was no idle chit chat or conversation. He, not me, knew the position we were in was incredibly dangerous. So being the man that he was, he took it upon himself to get out on that bridge to do what he could. He took the flares out of my hands and then he set off up onto the overpass, that was it.

At the time, being a rookie State Trooper, I simply had no idea how precarious of a position we were in. It was freezing cold that night and a layer of fog had set in. The temperature was so cold that the concrete surface of the highway overpass we were on was a solid sheet of ice. This is what caused the original accident that had brought us out there to begin with. The driver had lost control of the vehicle on the overpass when he hit the ice, the vehicle spun out and slammed into the concrete retaining wall, likely where the passenger’s arm was broken. The driver regained control of the vehicle and was able to bring it to a stop on the east side of the overpass. What made this situation so incredibly dangerous was that approaching vehicles traveling eastbound over the overpass, at speeds averaging 75mph , would get to the top of the overpass, see the accident scene and understandably hit their brakes in an attempt to slow down. The problem was that although the rest of the highway surface was dry, up on the overpass, it was ice. You can’t just slam on your brakes when you’re driving 75 mph on ice.

At this point the injured passenger was inside of the ambulance being treated. I grabbed my paperwork and jumped into the ambulance to meet with her to begin the investigation. I wasn’t in the ambulance very long, when the woman’s husband, who had been standing outside, flung the rear door of the ambulance open and said that a big rig that was traveling eastbound on the overpass had lost control on the ice and started to jack knife. The man said that the big rig driver had just barely recovered control of the semi- truck and trailer, the man said that the driver had narrowly avoided hitting all of us with the trailer. Having recovered, the driver continued down the road. To this day, I am sure that the unknown driver had no idea of the extent to what had just happened. Because there was no damage to the truck or trailer, the driver did not stop, and we were never able to locate him/her.

I am not sure why, probably my inexperience at the time, but it did not immediately occur to me what had just happened. I got out of the ambulance and noticed that Dep. Neff had arrived on scene. I glanced up on the bridge and saw that although a few flares had been set out, the traffic control was not complete. I wrongly assumed that since Neff had arrived, Sgt. Maki must have decided to divert and meet with him to complete the prisoner exchange. I grabbed a handful of flares and set out onto the overpass to complete the traffic control.

As I walked up onto the bridge, I started to realize how hazardous the situation was. This particular overpass crosses a section of Union Pacific railroad and spans approximately 1000’ from one end to the other. It rises from ground level to a height of about 65’ at its highest point. Due to the grade, a driver on one side cannot see what is out of view on the other side until they are at the very top of the bridge. This is where I was, and it was later determined that this was where Travis had gone over.

I had placed a few flares and was nearing this spot when a passenger car approached. Understandably the driver hit their brakes upon observing the accident scene. This caused the driver to lose control which resulted in the car starting to fish tail on the ice. I instinctively darted towards the cement retaining wall as I simply had nowhere else to go.

Thankfully, the driver regained control of their vehicle, they slowed and passed by with no further issues, however I now fully appreciated how dangerous this situation was. I realized at that moment if the car had come straight at me, I only had couple of options. I could try to jump out of the way of the car, I could leap over the side and hope for a soft landing, or I could swing over the side and try to hang onto the wall while the vehicle passed by. No matter what, the odds were not good that it would work out. I leaned over the side to see how far down it was to the bottom and as I leaned onto the wall my hands had slipped out, the concrete retaining wall was as icy as the road. Considering what my options were I quickly set out the rest of the flares so I could slow traffic and get off that spot. As I said before, I would later learn that this was the exact spot Travis went over.

I was now on the opposite side of the overpass from the original accident scene, all the flares were set up and traffic was starting to slow down as they approached. We had all been on scene now for a fair amount of time, so dispatch started checking in on us. I heard on my handheld radio Elko Dispatch call “Sam 6” for a security check, no answer. They called him a few more times, no answer. They then called “David 22” (Dep. Neff), he replied that he was Code 4, but he hadn’t seen “Sam 6” yet. This entire time I thought Neff and Sgt. Maki were together, I sprinted back across the bridge and met with Neff, I asked him where Sgt. Maki was, he replied, “I thought he was with you”. We split up and started searching, Sgt. Maki was later found at the bottom of the overpass, near the tracks. It was obvious he died instantly upon impact.

After that, everything was a blur, it seemed the whole world descended on the accident scene. My supervisor arrived and directed that I clear up the original accident, once that was finished, I left and headed north on US 93 to investigate another weather-related accident. It would be hours before I would get done. Once my shift ended, I went home, it was now daylight and I was exhausted. I went straight to bed.

The next day I spoke with an Elko Trooper who was tasked with completing the accident investigation related to Sgt. Maki’s death. He asked some basic questions about the original accident and my interactions with Sgt. Maki, the cause of death was ruled an accidental fall.

The accident investigation into Sgt. Maki’s death revealed that the tractor trailer had jack knifed and took up the entire bridge, it swung towards Travis in such a way that left no room to dodge it while remaining on the bridge. He had no choice, no options, he was faced with a split-second choice, jump, or try to hang onto the wall. My gut tells me that Travis tried to hang over the edge, that was my instinct when faced with a similar situation. The only problem was that the wall was covered in ice, there was no hanging on.

Everything about that brief encounter I had with him leads me to believe he knew exactly where he was, and he knew exactly what he was doing. He was not disorientated in the fog or unsure of his location. I believe in my heart that he had a split second, and he did what he could to try to survive.

I hope that this somehow helps, I sincerely apologize for not finding a way to get this story out sooner.

For me and my family Sgt. Travis Maki is a hero, were it not for him this Officer Down Memorial Page would bear a different name. And were it not for him, the two beautiful daughters I have had since this event would not be here. The youngest of the two’s middle name is Maki.

On the bracelet I wear with Sgt Travis Maki’s name is a verse from Scripture, Isaiah 6:8

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

Sgt. Sean Jones
Reno Police Department

November 29, 2020

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