Bike riders with the New Jersey Division of Law Enforcement United arrive in Sea Isle City.


On Aug. 25, 1992, Ptl. Michael P. Cullinane Sr. saved a construction worker who had fallen into a 30-foot-deep pit that was being dug for a sewage pumping station in Sea Isle City.

The next day, Cullinane was among the first responders who rushed to the same site for another rescue, but it cost him his life when he was overcome by a lethal mixture of hydrogen sulfide and methane gas produced by decaying vegetation buried under the sand.

“It’s unfortunate that he risked his life to save someone else. But it was his job as a police officer,” said Chuck Super, a retired Egg Harbor Township police officer who knew Cullinane from their days together as students at Ocean City High School in the 1980s and later as fellow officers.

Super is among about 50 former and current police officers with the organization Law Enforcement United’s New Jersey division who are making a four-day bike trip to Washington, D.C., for the “Road to Hope” tour in honor of fallen officers and their survivors.

Retired Egg Harbor Township Police Officer Chuck Super honors Cullinane in remarks at the memorial service.

While riding along the Jersey Shore on Monday, the bikers stopped at a memorial on 26th Street that honors Cullinane to pay their respects to the only Sea Isle police officer ever killed in the line of duty.

“Mickey was one of the people who you wanted to be friends with. He touched a lot of people,” Super said, using Cullinane’s nickname.

In addition to killing Cullinane, the release of hydrogen sulfide and methane gas from what was then a construction site on 26th Street injured two other police officers and sent a total of 38 people to the hospital, according to a story published Aug. 27, 1992, in The New York Times.

Mike Jargowsky, a retired Sea Isle police captain who now serves as the city’s emergency manager coordinator, pointed out that this coming Aug. 26 will mark the 30th anniversary of Cullinane’s death.

“It feels like it just happened,” Jargowsky said of the tragic accident.

Law enforcement officers who are making the bike tour pay their respects at the memorial at 26th Street and Landis Avenue.

For years, the old construction site, tucked in the marshlands along Landis Avenue at 26th Street, remained vacant. But in 2015, Sea Isle Boy Scout Ben Jargowsky, for his Eagle Scout project, transformed the site into a landscaped memorial honoring Cullinane and other fallen police officers across the country. Ben Jargowsky is the son of Mike Jargowsky.

Capt. Anthony Garreffi, the officer in charge of the Sea Isle police department, noted that Monday’s memorial service in honor of Cullinane is like “keeping his memory alive.”

The centerpiece of Cullinane’s memorial is a statue of St. Michael, the patron saint of police officers. The inscription on the statue reads, “In memory of Ptl. Michael P. “Mickey” Cullinane Sr. … Died in the line of duty while protecting those he served. August 26th, 1992.”

Deacon Joseph Murphy, of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sea Isle, asked God in a prayer during the memorial service to bless all of the officers who died in the line of duty and their families.

In addition to honoring Cullinane, Deacon Murphy prayed for Richard Lendell, a former Philadelphia K-9 officer who died of a heart attack while responding to a riot in 1983. Murphy, a retired Philadelphia police detective, had served with Lendell.

Capt. Anthony Garreffi, officer in charge of the Sea Isle Police Department, said the memorial service helped to keep Officer Cullinane’s memory alive.

Another law enforcement group, the Police Unity Tour, is scheduled to make a stop at the Cullinane memorial Tuesday morning on another bike ride to Washington, D.C. Police groups will hold a candlelight vigil on May 13 on the National Mall to honor all of the officers who died in the line of duty and show support for their families.

“This is one ride to honor the fallen and remember the survivors. We are all in this together. It’s to keep the memories alive,” Connie Searles, president of the New Jersey Division of Law Enforcement United, said of all the police groups that will join each other in Washington, D.C., to culminate the bike tour.

Searles, 49, was just 11 years old when her father, Stuart Searles, a helicopter pilot for the Sauk County, Wisconsin, Sheriff’s Department, was killed in a crash in 1984 while assisting with search and recovery efforts after a tornado.

His helicopter experienced an electrical malfunction, according to news reports. To save lives, Searles was able to steer his helicopter away from bystanders before crashing in an open field.

Connie Searles, while noting that she continues to miss her father dearly, explained that her involvement with Law Enforcement United has helped her with her grieving process and to move on with her life.

“This is a positive role that has taught me how to live again, how to love again, to be happy again and to move forward,” she said.

The sign atop 26th Street honors the late officer.