Deputy Joseph M. Kievernagel was killed on July 13, 2005, while piloting the Sheriff’s Department’s Helicopter, Star 6. Deputy Joe Kievernagel, Deputy Kevin Blount and Deputy Eric Henrikson took off from Mather Air Field for routine patrol of Sacramento County. They soon responded to a burglary call at a Folsom business. After they cleared the call they flew over the Lake Natoma area where hundreds of people had gathered to get relief from the intense heat being experienced in the Sacramento area. What happened next will remain in the hearts and minds of the Sheriff’s Department personnel forever. Star 6 developed catastrophic engine trouble. Witnesses reported that it seemed that Deputy Kievernagel tried in vain to control the craft, Deputy Kievernagel desperately tried to land the ship somewhere away from the crowded lake area. Star 6 crashed into a nearby hillside and rolled. Deputies Kievernagel and Blount were killed. Deputy Eric Henrikson was critically injured. Both officers were highly regarded professionals and truly dedicated to their assignments in Air Operations. They cannot be replaced. They can only be remembered and remember we will.
California Peace Officer Memorial Foundation Monument
Joseph Kievernagel’s name can be seen on memorial plaque #3 on the California Peace Officers Memorial Foundation’s bronze monument in downtown Sacramento. The monument is located on the West side of 10th Street, between N Street and Capitol Avenue, across the street from the West steps of the Capitol building.
Sacramento Police/ Sheriff Memorial
A bollard dedicated to Joseph Kievernagel can be seen at the Sacramento Police & Sheriff Memorial, located at 500 Arden Way in Sacramento.
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, Washington., D.C.
The names of our fallen are engraved and can be seen at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, located at 444 E St. NW in Washington, D.C.. It is updated every Spring in anticipation of National Police Week. Joseph Kievernagel’s name can be seen on memorial panel 61-E: 24.
Academy Rose Garden
The Sacramento Sheriff Office’s Memorial Rose Garden is located on the Academy grounds at 1000 Riverwalk Way in Carmichael. Each of the fallen have a dedicated rose bush and memorial plaque. There is also a bench near the garden that is dedicated to Joe.
Patriot Park Wall of Honor
Patriot Park, located at 6827 Palm Avenue in Fair Oaks, has a Wall of Honor in the back area of the park. Joseph Kievernagel is one of several DSA members featured on this wall- the others are Kevin Blount, Danny Oliver, and Robert “Bobby” French. The park administration also conducts an annual remembrance ceremony to honor those whose names are on the wall.
Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center
A memorial wall in the administrative area of the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center bears a plaque honoring Joseph Kievernagel.
A memorial plaque honoring Joe can be seen in the briefing room, and the Joseph Kievernagel Facility is named in his honor.
Lake Natoma STAR 6 Monument
While the loss of these lives and the wounds to Eric has forever scared the department and the community, the members of the Air Operations Bureau felt the need to build a monument where people could go to reflect on the positive contributions of these heroic men.
With a carefully selected committee in place, the members began with this mission:
Our original goal was to dedicate this memorial on the anniversary of the crash, as close to the actual site as possible. However, during a site survey, we determined the actual crash occurred in a riparian area, which was not appropriate or readily accessible.
This led us to the ultimate site, which is in the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area at Lake Natoma. This area is a multi-use facility along the American River Parkway, located on the south shores of Lake Natoma, near the CSUS Aquatic Center.
Once we identified the location, the committee started on the design. To assist in the design process, we reached out to one of the region’s most recognized artists, known for his award winning bronze sculptures, Tom Bennett of Bennett Sculptures. His task was to develop an abstract figure that embraced the freedom of flight, while encompassing symbolic features unique to STAR VI. Tom took to the task immediately and came back with a design that needed no revision.
Consistent with the committee’s requests, Tom incorporated a circular feature to represent the enclosed tail rotor of the Sheriff’s Eurocopter helicopter. Tom not only accommodated this request, but also included ironic, albeit unintentional features that remind us of the men aboard STAR VI. For instance, the fins encircling the middle section from the number “6”. These same fins number three, representing the number of crew aboard STAR VI on the final flight. The result is a bronze sculpture, titled by the committee, “Hero’s in the Sky”, coined from a statement made by then Sheriff Lou Blanas during a press conference.
With the preliminary design complete, the committee set out to secure the location, raise the necessary funds and build the final monument. As with any project of this size, we faced many challenges, not the least of which was to negotiate through the “red tape” of state government to place the memorial in a state park. With full cooperation from the State Park system, we secured an unprecedented agreement to place the monument in the park, directly across from the crash site.
On the heels of this success, members of the committee secured funding through generous donations of time, materials and money from members of the community and department. The result was a project on time and under budget.
On July 13, 2006, on the anniversary of the crash, hundreds gathered at the memorial site with the sound of music in the background and the smell of barbecue in the air when we unveiled and dedicated the fruits of our labor. The tribute to the men aboard STAR VI will forever stand as a reminder for their sacrifice.
Other interesting facts about the memorial
The sculpture, titled “Hero’s in the Sky” is constructed of bronze with an antique patina finish. The base is made of hand poured concrete.
The design is an original Bennett Sculptures design, made exclusively for the STAR VI memorial.
The memorial sculpture is located in the Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, at Lake Natoma. It sits in a natural area at the east end of the parking lot, on the south shores.
The memorial was placed to allow the visitor to look through the center circular section across the lake at the actual crash site. The lake serves as a reflecting pond, which along with its natural surroundings, create an environment in which the visitor can enjoy serenity, while reflecting on the lives of the crew.
The landscape surrounding the monument was created to allow 360 degree access to the memorial. The concrete path that surrounds the memorial forms the number “6” when viewed from above in either direction. This allows the surviving and future Air Operations members and all aviation personnel to look down upon the memorial in remembrance.
Without the generous contributions from the community and department members, the STAR VI memorial would not have been possible.
Chief Deputy James E. Lewis (Commander of the Bureau at the time of the STAR VI crash)
To design, construct and dedicate a memorial that appropriately honors the memories of Joe, Kevin and the suffering of Eric, while maintaining the professional standards of the Sheriff’s Department, the emotional welfare of the families and the interests of the community.
Joseph Kievernagel was laid to rest in Space 9, Lot 102 at Calvery Cemetery, located at 7101 Verner Avenue in Sacramento.