Corporal Paul Almer
June 19, 1949 - April 12, 1989
Paul Almer was born June 19, 1949, at Fountain Hill, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania.
Prior to enlisting in the Pennsylvania State Police, he served four years with the US Army including 18 months as a combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He was promoted to First Lieutenant prior to discharge from active duty and reached the rank of Major in the Pennsylvania National Guard as the commander of an aviation squadron at Fort Indiantown Gap.
He entered the State Police Academy on March 6, 1975, and was assigned to Troop J, Lancaster, upon graduation. He was 25 years old and 5'6½" tall. He transferred to the Aviation Division of the Bureau of Patrol in 1986.
At 7:30 a.m. on April 12, 1989, Corporal Almer was piloting H-1 with Trooper Wayne D. Bilheimer, a criminal investigator from Troop J, Lancaster, as his observation passenger. The helicopter took off from Aviation Patrol Unit No. 1 based at Reading Municipal Airport to search the Susquehanna River for the body of James C. Groff, a 50-year-old farmer from Holtwood, who reportedly jumped into the river. At 9:44 a.m., while flying at an altitude of 90 feet, the helicopter struck a 34,000-volt power line. The craft crashed into 10 feet of water in a channel between Lower Bear Island and Boeckel's Landing on the west bank of the river in southern York County, just north of the Maryland border.
Scuba divers from several agencies found the wreckage with Corporal Almer and Trooper Bilheimer still strapped in their seats. The wreckage was lifted by a Pennsylvania National Guard Skycrane helicopter at 4 p.m. The bodies of Corporal Almer and Trooper Bilheimer had been previously brought to the surface by Sergeant Wilson Knight, a diver from the Harford County, Maryland, Sheriff's Department. According to the Lancaster County Coroner, Corporal Almer died of drowning, while Trooper Bilheimer died from multiple trauma.
Corporal Almer was buried with full military honors at Fort Indiantown Gap Cemetery in Lebanon County.
He was survived by his mother, Mrs. Anita Almer, of Bethlehem. She was presented with the State Police Cross. Corporal Almer was engaged to be married.
At 39, he had served 14 years and one month with the Pennsylvania State Police.