END OF WATCH: August 30, 1955
Cleveland Police Department
It would be difficult to write a story about William Hudec without including Warren L. Stainbrook, as they were partners for many years. Both were assigned to the Fourth District. Stainbrook had just been reassigned to the Fourth District after having been assigned to the property room for a short time. This was their first outing together since his reassignment.
William Hudec was appointed to the Cleveland Police Department on March 1, 1941 and was a policeman for fourteen years. He had a brother, Lieutenant Raymond Hudec who was an active member of the Police Department. Hudec resided at 1910 East 93rd Street and was divorced. He had a daughter, Majel Lee, who was on road tour with an off-Broadway road company when an accident claimed her father’s life.
Hudec and Stainbrook worked a Police ambulance and were called “wagon men”. On August 30, 1955, Hudec and Stainbrook just completed an assignment where a male had suffered a heart attack. They reported the male had died and a doctor was on the scene. The radio room instructed them to return to the District and while en-route, the fatal accident occurred.
Hudec was driving east on Loren Avenue, parallel with railroad tracks. The crossing at East 91st Street was a high grade with surrounding buildings making it difficult to see approaching trains. Witnesses later stated the train was traveling at a high rate of speed, the ambulance approached the crossing, hesitated, and then proceeded across the tracks. The train struck the left side of the vehicle, throwing it into the air, causing both men to be thrown out.
Hudec traveled about thirty feet and Stainbrook about ten feet through the air. Neighbors called the emergency police number for help. Confusion broke out and police assumed a car and a private ambulance were involved. Radio dispatch attempted to call Hudec to dispatch them to the scene however, it was only when other police arrived that it was found the police vehicle was the one involved in the accident. Both Hudec and Stainbrook were pronounced dead on arrival when transported to St. Luke’s Hospital.
The train’s engineer, Nicolo A. Sanfelippo, told Police he was traveling at 50-miles per hour and was approximately one hundred feet away when he saw the ambulance. Sanfelippo said it was too late for him to stop the train.
The policemen’s deaths were the forty-eighth and forty-ninth in Cleveland traffic for the year 1955. (Information for this article was obtained from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Police Historical Society, and the Cleveland Police Department Personnel Unit.)
William Hudec’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. panel 51, west wall, line 12.
Warren L. Stainbrook’s name is inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall, Washington, D.C. Panel 46, E -15
By Recruit John T. Spahia, Cleveland Police Academy