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Man killed in West Plains collision was military veteran who once shook Obama's hand

Spokesman-Review - 12/20/2018

Dec. 20--A man killed Wednesday morning in a three-vehicle collision was a military veteran with a storied history in the armed forces, one that included a firm handshake with America's former commander-in-chief.

Ryan Labreck, 36, died, Washington state troopers said, when an allegedly impaired man rammed into the back of his 2016 Subaru Crosstrek, pushing it into oncoming traffic on U.S. Highway 2, 3 miles west of Airway Heights.

John Chelminiek, spokesman for Waste Management, said Labreck was hit just outside the Graham Road Landfill, where he was employed. According to a Spokesman-Review photograph taken in 2010, Labreck served as a sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. He was pictured folding a flag during a rehearsal for a May service at the Washington State Veterans Cemetery in Medical Lake.

He was also stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, where he had the opportunity to meet the president. In a short news story posted in 2009 to the base's website, he is pictured shaking then-President Barack Obama's hand during the inauguration in Washington, D.C.

"Senior Airman Ryan Labreck, 92nd Civil Engineer Squadron, shakes President Barack Obama's hand following the presidential inauguration Jan. 20," the caption reads. "Airman Labreck was one of seven Airmen tasked by the 92nd Air Refueling wing to support the inauguration."

A representative of Fairchild Air Force Base was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Shortly after the collision, troopers arrested 45-year-old Thomas Aripa on suspicion of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault.

Troopers say Aripa was at fault for causing the 7:30 a.m. crash, which occurred at Highway 2 and Christensen Road. Labreck was headed westbound on Highway 2 in a turn lane, attempting to turn left onto Christensen Road, when he was hit from behind by Aripa. Labreck was pushed into the eastbound lane, where he hit a pickup truck head-on.

Aripa is also accused of sending a family of four -- including two children -- in the truck to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening. Aripa was not seriously injured.

Labreck, who lived in Spokane, was killed in the collision and pronounced dead at the scene.

Moments before the collision, Sevigney said witnesses reported that Aripa was driving erratically. Troopers said drugs or alcohol was a factor in the collision.

"They were going to call 911 to report that to us when the collision occurred," Sevigney said.

Aripa has one previous felony charge from 2007 in Spokane County, but the details of that case were not immediately available Wednesday. He also has a felony conviction in Grant County.

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