By Jennifer Henion

Triplicate staff writer

Joe Emond, who risked his own life hundreds of times to help others, was killed in an accident in his home Sunday.

Emond, 51, was a sergeant with the California Highway Patrol in Del Norte for 16 years. He also served on the county's volunteer search-and-rescue team and as a firefighter for the Smith River Fire Department.

He was second in command of the local CHP district.

Del Norte County Sheriff Dean Wilson, who is also the county coroner, said he has ruled Emond's death to be accidental, pending an autopsy and toxicology report. He declined to reveal what sort of accident had killed Emond.

Wilson said Emond's death did not appear to be a suicide and that there was no indication of foul play. Yet, he added, it did not appear to be from natural causes.

andquot;His wife returned home late (Sunday) night to find him deceased due to an accident at the home,andquot; Wilson said. andquot;There was no indication that it was a heart attack and no involvement with a firearm.andquot;

Wilson, who said he has known Emond personally and professionally for 16 years, said Emond was widely respected both on and off the job.

andquot;He not only understood the people and the area, he really understood the role of law enforcement in a rural area - that the goal is to help people,andquot; Wilson said.

Emond used his experience and training as a California Highway Patrol sergeant to train and organize the county's search-and-rescue team.

His family was presented with an award from local law enforcement administrators in 2001 for their participation in search-and-rescue operations, according to Terry McNamara, a family friend and fellow member of the county search-and-rescue team.

andquot;It was his responsibility to keep us at the proficient level we are all the time. I always talk about what a great team we have, but Joe was one of those people that made our team what it was ... and he will be greatly missed,andquot; McNamara said.

Lt. Cmdr. Lyle Radtke, who heads up the local CHP district, said the loss of Emond will be deeply felt.

andquot;He certainly will be missed. He was just a great guy and very community oriented,andquot; said Radtke.

Emond, 51, is survived by his wife, Chris, and two children, Joe and Kristi.