Former Lejeune Marine killed in police cruiser crash laid to rest

ASHEVILLE, BUNCOMBE COUNTY - Loved ones said their final goodbyes Monday to a former Camp Lejeune Marine whose police cruiser plunged off a bridge in Asheville.

Funeral services were held at Biltmore Baptist Church in Arden Monday morning forĀ  Senior Police Officer Robert Austin Bingaman, who died after his police cruiser ran off a bridge on Interstate 240 in Asheville at about 1 p.m. on Oct. 29. The car landed along Riverside Drive.

Bingaman was later buried at Western N.C. Veteran's Cemetery in Black Mountain.

Asheville Police Chief William J. Anderson said Bingaman was traveling across the French Broad River when he lost control of his patrol vehicle and went off the Captain Jeff Bowen Bridge. As of Monday, the Highway Patrol was still investigating what caused the deadly wreck.

NewsChannel 12 talked with friend Brian Coffey, who had served with Bingaman in the Marine Corps while the two were stationed at Camp Lejeune.

"He continued on being a hero after leaving the Marines," said Coffey. "He's a good guy. I mean, he's a real good guy...He's always funny. He's one of those guys that, you know, will always have your back, no matter what."

According to the Marine Corps, Bingaman was stationed at Camp Lejeune from January 1996 to January 2000. Bingaman was an auto mechanic who left the Marine Corps as a sergeant.

Coffey, who now lives in Wisconsin, said he had served with Bingaman for about three years.

"It's just a shocking thing to see, you know, One of your brothers that you served with has passed away," said Coffey. "Luckily for me, with all the stuff that's been going on here, he's truly one of the first brothers that I lost, and it's a shock. And I know all the other guys said that he served with, worked for, stuff like that, are all extremely shocked and saddened for his loss."

(CLICK HERE to listen to full interview.)

There was no one else in Officer Bingaman's police cruiser and no one else was hurt, said the Asheville police chief.

Firefighters said it took some time to stabilize the police car, and they had to strap the back end of the vehicle to a bridge piling.

Bingaman was 37 and had been with the Asheville Police Department for six years. He was working in the Traffic Safety Unit.

"He's just kind of a good old country boy," said Coffey. "I liked him from day one."

To send flowers or a memorial gift to the Bingaman family, CLICK HERE.

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