Roadside honors for Iraq war vet who died in crash

Christopher Sainsbury grew up in Placer County, served in Iraq, Afghanistan
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County native and Army veteran Christopher Sainsbury died Nov. 21 in an auto accident in Utah.


AUBURN CA - From the Sacramento International Airport to a turn off the Auburn’s Maple Street exit from Interstate 80, first responders turned out Friday to honor Christopher Sainsbury.

Sainsbury had served in the Army for seven years, including two tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan.

He was on his way to his mother’s home for Thanksgiving in Placer County, when his truck crashed Nov. 21 on a stretch of I-80 west of Salt Lake. While his 3-year-old daughter survived the crash, Sainsbury died of injuries at the scene.

On Friday, firefighters, law enforcement and ambulance personnel turned out on overpasses and at the side of the freeway to flash their lights and wave flags as a hearse bearing Sainsbury’s body to Auburn’s Chapel of the Hills passed by under cloudy skies.

In the limousine that followed a sheriff’s patrol car and the hearse, the 26-year-old Chana High School graduate’s mother, Susan McQueen, looked out through a misting rain at a tribute she said brought still more tears to her eyes.

At Eureka Road, ladder trucks had raised their ladders and crossed them.

“All the firefighters on the trucks were saluting,” McQueen said. “I’ve just about used up all my tears today.”

As the procession moved north toward Auburn, more tributes were seen along the way and Auburn Fire and Auburn Police joined Placer County Sheriff’s Office personnel to honor the soldier’s memory as the procession arrived in Auburn.

Sainsbury had been stationed in Italy and then Kentucky. Due to leave the service in January, he was preparing to start college in Southern California, with the aim of becoming an attorney, McQueen said.

“He had packed up and was moving to California,” McQueen said. “There are different reports on what happened to cause the crash so we’re still not sure what happened.”

Sainsbury had buckled his daughter, Austin Kruse, into a car seat and she survived uninjured.

“Thank God she was in a car seat,” McQueen said.

Sainsbury was born in Roseville and attended Loomis Grammar School and Placer Elementary School in Loomis. He went on to Del Oro High School before graduating from Chana High School in 2005.

In the Army, he was awarded a purple heart for gunshot wounds he received while patrolling in Salam Pak, Iraq in 2007.

McQueen said she was thankful for the phone conversations and the last words the two spoke to each other during the hours before her son’s death.

“I was worried about him driving so far,” McQueen said. “The last thing I said to him was ‘I love you,’ and the last thing he said to me was ‘I love you, mom,’”

Visitation will be from 4-7 p.m. Monday in Chapel of the Hills. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday in 1st Methodist Church on Brace Road in Loomis.