RCMP Const. Frank Deschenes is shown in a handout photo. Deschenes, a Nova Scotia Mountie who worked to educate the public about the need to slow down when driving past emergency vehicles, was killed Tuesday after being struck by a utility van while helping motorists change a flat tire.
©THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Nova Scotia RCMP
MEMRAMCOOK, N.B. - This wasn’t the first occasion when Const. Frank Deschenes went beyond his call of duty for those he was called to serve.
On late Tuesday afternoon, Deschenes stopped his police cruiser on the Trans-Canada Highway near Memramcook to help a stranded motorist with a flat tire. His decision to change the tire had tragic consequences.
He and his vehicle would be struck by a utility van. Subsequently, Deschenes died at the scene.
“We’re devastated,” said Nova Scotia RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Jennifer Clarke on Wednesday. “Frank was a well-loved member of every unit he worked with over the years.”
Deschenes, 35, put his life in jeopardy in an incident in June 2008, where he single-handedly prevented a potential train wreck near Brookfield. Using his police car, he was able to push a damaged, immobilized car off the train tracks just in time to avoid an oncoming train that was just minutes away.
“Const. Frank Deschenes of Northeast Nova Traffic Services, at great risk to himself, took his police car and was able to push the vehicle away with only 45 seconds prior to the train coming through,” said a 2008 news release from Const. Fred Walker of the Colchester RCMP.
Deschenes actions avoided a possible train derailment and saved lives, Walker said
The RCMP are now struggling to come to grips with the loss of one of their own. Deschenes, who was based in the RCMP’s Northwest Traffic Services in Amherst, was at the time of the incident serving under Sackville RCMP highway patrol unit.
Photographer John Morris of P.E.I. was driving to Moncton when he came upon the accident.
“As I got closer I noticed there were cars in places where they shouldn't have been on the side of the road. I noticed a lots of flashing lights and a police car that looked severely damaged,” he said.
Morris' photos show damage to both the front and rear of the RCMP cruiser.
“Just looking at it you got a bad feeling about it,” he said.
Morris said he knows many RCMP officers, and it was difficult to view the wreckage.
“They put their lives at risk a lot. They have a tough and difficult job and don't receive a lot of credit for what they do,” he said.
Tim Nicholson, a retired RCMP officer, spent 21 years patrolling various Nova Scotia highways. The Halifax resident said he and the entire Nova Scotia police community are grief-stricken by the tragedy.
“I was shocked but not surprised,” said Nicholson. “It’s an extremely dangerous job and in a situation like that in the way that the traffic flows on those highways, it’s not a surprise.
“You look at the rate of speed people are travelling. The speed limit is 110 km/h and people are driving 120 km/r or 130 km/h and they’re not slowing down a lot of times or moving over for emergency vehicles.
“I’ve had close calls and you can feel the cars when you’re up at the window of someone else’s car and it almost feels like your pants or jacket are being pulled off from the draft.”
In the end, he said it’s difficult to blame Deschenes for his actions.
“Well, he was being a good Samaritan, right. You probably could have called a tow truck but I likely would have done the same thing.
The eastbound lanes of the highway were closed for several hours while emergency crews attended the scene. The highway was re-opened Wednesday morning.