Decorated Air Force Colonel killed in crash

A long, dark shadow was cast on Patrick Air Force Base on Feb. 2 when the 920th Rescue Wing lost one of its beloved, its former Operations Commander, Retired Colonel Christopher “Sunshine” Hannon, to a traffic crash.

Hannon, 58, who lived in Sunnyland Beach south of Melbourne Beach, was pursuing his passion for cycling Friday afternoon around 12:45 p.m. when he was struck by a motorist driving a 1998 Chevrolet at the intersection of Indian River Boulevard and the Merrill Barber Bridge in Vero Beach. According to Vero Beach Police, Hannon was transported by paramedics and later pronounced dead at Indian River Medical Center.

Hannon leaves behind his wife of more than 35 years, Theresa, daughters and extended family. The recently retired officer and pilot was remembered as a patriot, a leader and an inspiring, positive person, earning him the nickname Sunshine.

Police are investigating the crash as a homicide, so scant information was being released as of press time, but Public Information Officer Megan Dewitt said on Saturday, “The driver is a 33-year-old male with no obvious sign of impairment.”

Fellow cyclist Jim McKinley was on the scene. “I was with Chris when he lost his life,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be a friend and get to know him not from a military background but as Chris/Sunshine. A man with strong family beliefs, passion, desire and a deep love for his family, especially his wife. I count myself lucky to have met him and more importantly (to) be by his side at his time of need. Don’t think I will ever forget you!”

Indian Harbour Beach Volunteer Fire Department Captain Hank Aprea echoed that sentiment. “There are people you remember, there are people you will never forget, Chris is one we will never forget, an officer, a gentleman, a family man, a fair and caring person to all, you will be missed, prayers and thoughts to the family, active or retired we are all with you.”

Nephew Jason Weber took heart in the remembrances and condolences of more than 200 people linked to the 920th Rescue Wing, saying he was “completely overwhelmed with everyone’s comments. Thank you all who either served with him or knew him personally. He was like an older brother to me, but more importantly he was an incredible husband and father to his immediate family. This tragic news reminds me that we need to hug our loved ones and make time as he always did for those closest to us.”

Former colleague Frank Dailey said, “I am crushed by the news. I worked and flew with Chris and remember him riding to work on his bike and the clip-clip of his bike shoes on the tile as well as the smart comments about his bike shorts. He was a good man, great flight commander and friend.”

Hannon was photographed in a ceremony turning over command of the 920th Rescue Wing to current Operations Commander Col. Kurt Matthews in June 2010. A representative said Matthews had gone to be by the Hannon family’s side, and that details of services would be forthcoming.

Retired Air Force Crew Chief Kenneth Santos paid his respects from California. “This man was one in millions, yes millions. Stone cold when needed and a hand on your shoulder when you did not realize you needed it. I had the pleasure of working with him at a young age (his) and I was blessed to know him. RIP Rescue Brother. To fly is heavenly to hover is Divine. So others may live. You walked the walk and talked the talk.”

Friends Hugh and Penne Funk expressed their sentiments, “I’m absolutely crushed. Chris was the best and hardest working guy. He was a warrior and leader that we all loved and respected. Sunshine adored and cherished Theresa and his daughters. The world is a darker place without his light and life shining in it.”

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