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Gardena police officer who died after motorcycle crash remembered as a mentor

Gardena remembers Officer Toshio Hirai, who died Nov. 15 a day after suffering serious injuries in a motorcycle crash.

A Gardena police officer died Thursday after suffering serious injuries in a motorcycle crash on his way to work a day earlier.

Officer Toshio Hirai, 34, was riding his police motorcycle to work when the crash occurred near Western Avenue and 238th Street about 7:50 a.m. Wednesday. He was taken to a hospital and died the next day, according to the Gardena Police Department.

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The other driver involved in the crash remained at the scene and spoke to investigators, police said.

Hirai, who joined the department in 2006, was a motorcycle officer, traffic investigator and a SWAT team member during his tenure, Police Chief Tom Kang said during a news conference Thursday.

Kang praised Hirai’s intelligence, ability to speak five languages, his sense of humor and his kindness. Hirai grew up in the city and attended the Gardena Buddhist Church.

“He’s an officer that would go out of his way to help anyone,” Kang said. “He was a mentor to other officers. We’re truly going to miss him.”

Hirai is survived by his wife, Kristen, and his 2-year-old son, Takeo. The Gardena Police Officers’ Assn. set up a donation page to raise money for Hirai’s family. As of Friday, 190 people had donated more than $26,000.

A memorial with cards and flowers was set up at the police department. The agency will hold a candlelight vigil for Hirai at 6:30 p.m. Friday in front of the police station at 1718 W. 162nd St.

“He loved this community and the work he did here. The community loved him back,” the department wrote on Facebook. “We lost a guardian today, and while we’ll never be able to replace Toshio, his memory will live on and his presence will always be felt.”

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