Newport Policeman Dies of Leukemia Complications


A veteran Newport Beach police sergeant who was among a group of emergency workers who believe they might have been poisoned by a 1987 chemical fire has died of leukemia complications, a Police Department spokesman said Monday.

Steve Van Horn, 48, an Iowa native who became a Newport Beach officer in 1973, collapsed Friday at his home and was taken to Chapman Medical Center in Orange, where he lapsed into a coma, Police Sgt. John Desmond said. On Sunday, as his family, friends and some fellow officers gathered, he was removed from life support machines.

The department had rallied around Van Horn, a popular sergeant, when he was found to have leukemia in January 1995. Many feared that his medical problems were caused by toxins that police officers and firefighters were exposed to during a blaze at the Hixson Metal plating plant in 1987.


Medical experts are divided on whether Van Horn and at least two others got their cancers from a flood of toxic chemicals at the Hixson fire, but the city classified Van Horn’s illness as work-related. Van Horn received a bone marrow transplant in May, and his doctors were optimistic about his recovery.

Van Horn is survived by his wife and department co-worker, Nanette Van Horn; his children, Lisa, 30, Jennifer and Jeffrey, both 22, Kim, 19, Jamie, 8, and Kelsey, 5; his grandchildren, Ashley Dahoda, 10, and Ethan Osbourne, 7 months; his mother, Jean Massey; and siblings, David L. Van Horn and Kathy J. Embrey.

A funeral service will take place Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Anaheim United Methodist Church, 1000 S. State College Blvd. A police motorcade will escort the family to Pacific View Memorial Park, at 3500 Pacific View Drive, in Newport Beach.

In lieu of flowers, the Van Horn family asks that donations be made to the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte or the Anaheim Methodist Church.

The Newport Beach Police Management Assn. has also created a fund for Van Horn’s family, and donations can be sent in care of the fund to the NBPMA, P.O. Box 7000, Newport Beach, CA 92658-7000. Information: (714) 644-3662.