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Go-karts, Halloween lights, devotion to family: Fallen NHP troopers remembered

Updated December 30, 2023 - 8:25 am

They shared a laugh, the last time he saw his neighbor.

It was Halloween night when Robert Babcock encountered his friend next door, Alberto Felix, a trooper with the Nevada Highway Patrol.

“He was out trick-or-treating the last time I basically saw him and had a conversation with him,” Babcock recalls. “He says, ‘I saw you putting up your Halloween lights already and Christmas lights — because I have them blinking like Halloween when it’s Halloween time — and he was like, ‘You better not step it up and do more of these lights for Christmas, because I don’t want to have to climb up on the roof and have to outshine you so you better not do anymore.’ So we laughed about that.”

On Nov. 30 Felix and fellow Nevada state trooper Sgt. Michael Abbate were struck and killed while responding to a call of a suspicious vehicle stopped off of Interstate 15.

They were hit by a suspected drunk driver.

One month later, we look back at the lives lost that night:

Babcock remembers his neighbor of a little over two years as a devoted father and husband.

“He was he was a very family-oriented person. He was always doing stuff with his kids,” he says. “The first couple of days when we moved in, he was outside teaching his youngest daughter how to ride a bike. And that was pretty cool to see that. I’m going to move into this neighborhood, and I’m going to get to know someone that treats their family just like I take value in my family. And that’s how he was.”

He also recalls Felix being a consistently cordial presence.

“He was always that type of neighbor, where, you look back in the ’80s, in the ’90s, where they would always wave at you, they would always say, ‘Hi,’ ” Babcock says.

“Nowadays, you don’t know your neighbors most of the time,” he continues. “Most of the time, you just drive into the garage, you close the garage door, and then you go into the house. You don’t even speak to your neighbors or anything. But he wasn’t that type. If he was doing something, working on his yard or something, he would wave to you.”

‘Great Las Vegan’

For the Abbates, racing is a family affair, the call of the track answered enthusiastically.

Beginning when he was a boy, Michael Abbate was a go-karting enthusiast, with his father regularly taking him to the now-shuttered Las Vegas Karting Center on the south side of town.

His younger sister, Michele Abbate, would later become a professional racer and earn multiple road racing championships.

“He was an amazing racer,” recalls Kevin Williams, president of the World Karting Association, who knew Michael Abbate when he was a young competitor. “He won a lot of races, participated with the World Karting Association many times on a national level, and did very, very well.”

Years later, he’d put his racing skills to good use with the Nevada Highway Patrol.

“He taught the troopers how to do defensive driving because of his racing background,” Williams says. “I mean, that’s a great Las Vegan — and a great person.”

During a memorial service for Abbate earlier in the month, his wife, Vanessa Abbate, described her husband as the “biggest gearhead” and recalled first meeting him at California Speedway in 2006.

He continued to work as a mechanic for a racing team until his untimely passing.

(The Las Vegas Review-Journal reached out to numerous friends and family members of the troopers but did not hear back.)

For those like Babcock who knew one of the fallen troopers, it’s now about keeping memories alive, of continuing to remember these two men who lost their lives in the line of duty.

“We’re not going to forget him,” Babcock says of Felix. “And we’re not going to let other people forget him. We want his story to be that he was a family person, that he was a great person to know. And we want that story to live on.”

Contact Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476. Follow @jbracelin76 on Instagram.

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