A devoted police officer who always put his family first.
That’s how NYPD officer Patrick Luca was remembered Wednesday as scores of New York City police officers poured out of buses to pay tribute to the recruitment officer who mysteriously drowned during a day trip with his son last week.
Family and friends followed the hearse holding Luca’s casket as they slowly drove under a large American Flag waving through the air, as a warm breeze passed through St. Patrick’s Church where his fellow officers said their final goodbyes.
Surrounded by mourners, Luca’s wife waited several minutes before her husband’s flag-draped casket was carried into the church while “Amazing Grace” played in the background.
After the service, the NYC Police Department flag was presented to Luca’s wife by an officer who hugged the widow and saluted her before walking away. Sobs from Luca’s wife broke the silence as she slowly walked back to her limo as her son Caden tugged at her black dress from behind.
The 41-year-old officer’s body was discovered by a passing boater 1 ¼ miles west of where he initially went missing after launching his inflatable kayak with his five-year-old son, Caden, in Nissequogue River on Friday afternoon.
A little more than an hour after father and son took the boat into the water, Good Samaritans found the 5-year-old boy floating in Smithtown Bay, wearing his life jacket. The boy told the rescuers that “his father went under” and didn’t come back up, officials said.
Police are still investigating what happened when Luca and his son mysteriously fell from the kayak and floated away. Search and boat conditions were considered “ideal,” on Friday, officials said.
The Smithtown native joined the NYPD in 1990, and started serving as a recruitment officer a decade later.
“His legacy lives on through the people he recruited, and he’s going to be missed,” said Inspector Martin Morales, Luca’s commanding officer.
He credited Luca with recruiting hundreds of officers, calling him a “mentor to everybody in the unit.”
Eileen Leone of the NYPD’s medical division said she didn’t know Luca’s family personally but said the proud father talked about his family constantly, and would share pictures and stories with colleagues all the time. She described him as an “excellent officer” who always put others before him.
“We didn’t really personally know his kids,” she said minutes after an NYPD helicopter flew over the church, “but through him we felt like we knew his family.”
Another colleague, Eloise Archibald, who worked with Luca for some time in the psychological division, said his family was the “center of life,” and called him a “wonderful human being” who can’t be replaced.
Luca is the second NYPD officer laid to rest on Long Island this year, but for those who knew Luca so well, his death has been hard to deal with.
“This is probably one of the hardest weeks in my career in the NYPD,” said Morales. “It’s not easy, it’s not easy for all of us, it’s a sad mood…We thank god that his son was spared.”