On late Tuesday afternoon, Deschenes stopped his police cruiser on the Trans Canada Highway near Memramcook, N.B., to help a stranded motorist with a flat tire. His decision to change the tire had tragic consequences: he and his vehicle were struck by a utility van. 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.
[Nova Scotia RCMP mourning loss of Amherst officer]
“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.
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.
“We don’t know the circumstances, maybe the person didn’t have any money. You just don’t know, but it’s a lesson to people to slow down when you see the emergency lights, and obey the speed limits.
“But at this point, all I can say is that it’s a tragedy. It’s part of the job that we do. Tragic things can happen.”