Mourning BadegeSomerset County deputy coroner, long-time police officer killed in vehicle accident

Posted on Feb 19, 2014
By MICHELLE GANASSI Daily American Assistant City Editor

James Hahn, a deputy coroner and retired Somerset Borough police officer, was traveling to a funeral in Rockwood Wednesday morning when he was killed in a two-vehicle accident.

Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller said he, Hahn and deputy coroner Cliff Ziegler were driving to his Rockwood funeral home in separate vehicles. The Water Level Road was slick with ice from the melting snow, and Ziegler soon came upon an accident.
“I told him, ‘Take your time, Jim’s down there,” Miller said.

A few minutes later Ziegler called back to report that Hahn was the driver of one of the vehicles. He was pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m.
“I’ve seen it all,” said Miller, the county coroner for 16 years, “and this one hit me hard.”

State police said Hahn, 73, of Somerset was traveling south on the Water Level Road in Milford Township at 9:25 a.m. A 17-year-old male from Rockwood was traveling north.

The male, whom police did not identify, lost control of his sport-utility vehicle on the icy road and slid into Hahn’s lane of travel. Police said Hahn was unable to avoid a collision. The front portion of his car hit the driver’s side of the other vehicle in the southbound lane.

Hahn was pronounced dead at the scene by Ziegler. The teenager was transported to Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown for treatment. Police described his injuries as moderate. Police said neither driver was wearing a seat belt.

The Water Level Road was closed from West Mud Pike to Garrett Road in Milford Township until 2:30 p.m. because of the collision. Firefighters from Rockwood and New Centerville assisted police.

James Hahn
Play the "Final Call" for Officer Hahn

Hahn worked for the Somerset Borough Police Department for 35 years prior to his retirement in 2005. Retired borough police Chief Brad Cramer was shocked and saddened Wednesday by the news that his colleague and friend was killed in an accident. Cramer and Hahn worked together for more than three decades and remained friends.

“He was probably one of the most dependable and loyal people I knew,” he said. “When I was there he was the patrol supervisor. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better in that position. I never had to worry when Jim was in charge of anything.”

Cramer said Hahn was a great police officer who was well-liked by everyone he knew.

“I don’t even know how many friends and acquaintances and associates he has,” he said. “A lot of people knew him and liked him. I know I’ll miss him a great deal.” Cramer said he sends his sympathy to Hahn’s family. “He went too quick,” he said.

Current borough police Chief Randy Cox also offered his condolences. “We’re all saddened by the news,” he said. “Jim was just so well-respected and so well-liked in the community. For many years intermittently he was the face of the department not only because he was one of the longest serving officers, but also because he served as an acting chief so often.”

Hahn was active in the Fraternal Order of Police Roof Garden Lodge and was serving as secretary.

Lodge treasurer Dan Colflesh said Hahn ran the FOP for a short period of time and was an integral part of union negotiations. “When the FOP was really big in this area he was a key figure in all the negotiations in Somerset and Bedford counties,” he said. Colflesh said Hahn had a tremendous impact on his career.

“He used to say, ‘Danny boy, not every call has to lead to an arrest,’” Colflesh said. “’Your job is to go and keep the peace.’” Hahn served as an on-call deputy coroner for Miller since 2005. Their friendship dates to 1997, when Miller approached Hahn about earning the FOP’s endorsement for coroner. Miller was later invited to his retirement party.

“It didn’t go two weeks after that, that we got wind he was looking for something to do,” Miller said. Miller brought Hahn on as a contracted deputy coroner and funeral home assistant.

“We thought he’d be the perfect fit, and sure enough he was,” he said. “He fit the funeral part of it right off the bat.”

The coroner’s office also includes Miller’s wife, Arlene, a licensed funeral director and unpaid chief deputy coroner, and volunteer deputy coroner Bob Mulcahy.

“We’re tight. We’re friends,” he said. “We don’t really consider bosses and employees. We’re just a bunch of guys who do this. I’m just the face of the operation.”

“We lost a family member,” he added. “There’s really not another way to say it.”