'He loved being the hero': Fallen trooper remembered for helping others

 
Updated 1/13/2019 6:52 PM
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  • Trooper Christopher Lambert

    Trooper Christopher Lambert

Illinois State Trooper Christopher Lambert loved helping others when they needed it most.

It was what led the Highland Park resident to join the Illinois State Police five years ago after serving in the U.S. Army. And it was why he stopped along a snowy Interstate 294 on his way home Saturday afternoon to tend to a three-vehicle crash near Willow Road.

Lambert, 34, had positioned his car in the left lanes to protect the drivers involved in the crash when another vehicle struck him at the scene, state police say. An off-duty nurse administered CPR, but he died from multiple injuries about 2½ hours later, officials said.

The driver who hit Lambert waited at the scene for investigators, according to Illinois State Police Director Leo P. Schmitz, who said the trooper's death appeared to be accidental.

Schmitz called Lambert a hero, and the sentiment was echoed Sunday by a longtime friend who described the fallen trooper as a dedicated family man who relished his role.

"He loved being the hero," friend Raymon Coughenour of Antioch said. "Regardless of if he was in the squad car or if he was on duty or off duty, he loved being the hero. He always liked people going to him so he could help save the day."

Lambert grew up in Ohio, and it was in college there that he met his future wife, Halley. The couple became parents of a daughter who just turned 1, said Coughenour, who attended Deerfield High School with Halley Lambert.

Coughenour said Christopher Lambert also enjoyed country music and outdoor pursuits like fishing and hiking.

"He loved old-school country music," he said. "He has cowboy boots that he has taken to all the country concerts he has gone to that he has had the artists sign. So he has 20 signatures on his boot."

Lambert also had a great sense of humor, Coughenour said, recalling a recent lengthy text exchange in which they traded quotes from the comedy "Dumb and Dumber."

Coughenour had been texting with Lambert just before the crash, joking with him about the lack of Spotted Cow beer at his house, he told the Chicago Sun-Times. Then Lambert's wife texted Coughenour about the accident. Later, his wife texted Coughenour that she was heartbroken.

Truck driver George Kirn said Lambert assisted him during a hit-and-run crash involving his semitrailer truck near Gurnee. Lambert showed "unbelievable kindness," and thanks to his vigilance, fellow troopers caught up with the hit-and-run driver 10 miles down the road.

Kirn said Lambert followed up with him days afterward, making sure he was aware of an upcoming court date.

"Everything that Chris did, it was like he was part of the family," Kirn said.

The crash that took Lambert's life occurred not far from the site of the March 2013 crash that killed Trooper James Sauter, the Sun-Times reported. Sauter had been parked on the left shoulder of southbound I-294 near mile 48.5 on March 28, 2013, when a semitrailer hit his cruiser in a fiery crash. Lambert was at about mile 40.95.

Coughenour said fundraising efforts and services are pending.

In the meantime, Illinois State Police issued a warning about a phony GoFundMe fundraiser created Sunday morning.

"If and when an account is created and/or vetted of a representative of his family, WE, the Illinois State Police will confirm and make known to the public," the warning reads. "We encourage you to want to make any donations at this time to any funding accounts being shared in social media."

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