FARMER CITY — An Illinois State Police trooper was remembered by friends Thursday as a hard worker, a good athlete and a good-hearted man with an unforgettable laugh.
Ryan Albin, 37, died at 8:45 p.m. Wednesday at Carle Hospital in Urbana from injuries suffered in a two-vehicle crash about five hours earlier on Interstate 74 near Farmer City.
“He was the life of the party,” said his friend, Chad Yeadon, who knew him since kindergarten. “He had this crazy, obnoxious, yet funny laugh. It was the craziest laugh you ever heard. He was always going 100 miles per hour, but he would do anything for you.”
Yeadon was one of more than 150 people who gathered Thursday afternoon in downtown Farmer City to watch the end of a procession of about 120 police vehicles that escorted Albin’s body from Urbana to the Calvert-Belangee-Bruce Funeral in Farmer City.
“He was a really good guy,” Yeadon added. “I just am having a hard time believing it.”
Visitation will be 2-8 p.m. Wednesday and the funeral will be at 10 a.m. Thursday, both at Blue Ridge High School in Farmer City, according to the funeral home and school district officials.
The crash happened around 3:10 p.m. Wednesday and is still under investigation, but the preliminary investigation showed Albin and a commercial vehicle were in slowed/stopped westbound traffic approaching a merge area ahead of a construction zone when the crash occurred, police said.
The trooper's canine partner, Biko, who was in the back seat of the squad car, was taken to an emergency veterinarian at the University of Illinois in Urbana, but the dog's injuries appear to be minor, police said.
The truck driver, a 47-year-old Normal man, and his passenger, a 38-year-old Bloomington man, refused medical treatment, police said. They have not been identified. No tickets have been issued.
An autopsy was scheduled Thursday.
Albin grew up near Bellflower and attended Blue Ridge High School where he was an athlete, participating in track, baseball, basketball and football. He played football at Eureka College for Head Coach Darrell Crouch.
“He was a hard worker, was good around people and was a lot of fun to be around,” said Crouch. “He came from a really good family. His dad was an athlete at Eureka and so was his twin sister.
"I was really, really proud of him. He was studying for a business degree, but did an internship with our football team," Crouch added. "He was such a good person and this is such a tragedy. He will be missed.”
Like most of Albin’s friends, Kyle Kopp of Farmer City remembers Albin’s laugh.
“I worked with him in the seed corn fields after he came out of high school and he just always did what he was asked and always super polite,” he said. “But he had this infectious laugh. You knew it was him and you loved that laugh.
"He always did things with excellence. He never did anything halfway," Kopp added. "And I never saw him without a smile on his face.”
Peggy Lamb of Farmer City said the world needs more people like Albin.
“He was a one-in-a-million kind of guy,” she said. “He would do anything for you.”
The procession ended with a salute to Albin from the uniformed officers who participated in the procession.
“You can’t watch that and not have it touch you,” said Farmer City resident Rick Hopson. “I didn’t know Ryan, but I talked with several people this morning who did.
"I have yet to hear anything negative about this man," Hopson added. "He was a police officer. He gave his life protecting us. He’s a hero.”
Albin joined the state police Jan. 8, 2006, and was assigned to Pontiac-based District 6 as a canine officer.
Police agencies across the state have posted messages on social media expressing their sorrow and honoring Albin.
“Our hearts are heavy with grief as we mourn the loss of Trooper Albin,” said ISP Director Leo P. Schmitz in a prepared statement. “I extend my deepest sympathy to Trooper Albin’s family, friends, and co-workers.
"I pray that those who cared for and loved him find the strength they need during this most difficult time. No further words can express the pain and loss we are all feeling.”
Albin was a trustee with the Illinois Fraternal Order of Troopers Lodge 41.
“I have been a State Police K-9 officer during my law enforcement career so I feel a special kinship with Ryan, whom I knew well from his active involvement with the FOP,” said lodge President Joe Moon.
“Ryan was a friend, colleague and dedicated public servant," Moon added. "His loss touches everyone, and he will be deeply and sorely missed.”
Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge President Chris Southwood agreed that Albin was special.
“Simple words cannot express the profound grief we feel at the loss of our friend, colleague and law enforcement brother Ryan Albin,” Southwood said. “Ryan died performing a job he loved, protecting the citizens of Illinois and all who travel our state's highways.”