Sheriff's deputy Natalie Doucet says she was let go after a van crash in April 2012

Sheriff's deputy Natalie Doucet says she was let go after a van crash in April 2012 (Submitted)

A former sheriff's officer injured in a van crash while transporting prisoners last year says she has been treated "like trash" by the provincial government.

Natalie Doucet, of Bathurst, says she loved being a sheriff's officer and was good at her job.

But New Brunswick Sheriff Services let her go in June, failing to renew her contract after three years of working full-time with, she says, an exemplary record.

"I'm a proud person. When I work, I give 110 per cent," she told CBC News.

John Cranton, of Tide Head, says he can attest to that, based on what he witnessed on April 23, 2012 when a sheriff's van carrying two sheriffs and three prisoners left Highway 11 during an icy storm and flipped at least three times down a hill.

Cranton, who was travelling behind the van, says despite clearly being in pain, Doucet immediately went from the passenger's seat into the prisoners' cage at back of the vehicle. She then began to give first aid to a badly bleeding and unconscious detainee.

"She climbed right in and she tried to stop the flow of blood of the inmate who was on the floor," recalled Cranton.

"She stayed in there with him."

Doucet says she suffered injuries to her back, a twisted pelvis and bruises and was off of work on medical leave for four months.

No one from the provincial government called her during that time to ask how she was doing, she said. When her six-month contract, which was signed after the accident, expired, it was not renewed.

'Reacted quickly and efficiently'

Sheriff's deputy Natalie Doucet says she never received a letter of commendation

Sheriff's deputy Natalie Doucet says she never received a letter of commendation for her actions after a van carrying prisoners crashed in April 2012. (CBC)

More than 18 months since the accident, Doucet says she's still in pain and unemployed, paying for her own medications, as well as physiotherapy and trips to a pain clinic in Moncton.

She came forward after a CBC News investigation into the accident revealed the sheriff's department had written official letters of commendation to Doucet and her fellow sheriff for their conduct that day.

Doucet says she never received the letter, a copy of which was obtained by CBC News as part of a Right to Information request that was initially denied but successfully appealed in court. It is unclear if the letter was ever sent.

When Doucet saw the letter for the first time on Thursday, she was overcome with emotion.

"Despite the seriousness of the situation and the personal shock it must have caused, you remained calm and professional both during and following the accident," she said, reading the letter aloud through tears.

"Your ability and commitment to carrying out your duties despite your own injuries are to be commended," the letter from the chief sheriff and deputy chief sheriff, dated April 26, 2012, continues.

Sheriff's van

The sheriff's van was extensively damaged when it flipped down an embankment while carrying three prisoners and two sheriffs.

"You reacted quickly and efficiently in a difficult situation and, in so doing, showed exceptional commitment to your job. We wish to convey our sincerest appreciation on behalf of each of us and the Department of Justice and Attorney General."

Asked about the letter on Thursday, Justice Minister Troy Lifford said he had no knowledge of it.

Doucet says the commendation she values most came from the injured prisoner she assisted. She says he asked to speak to her at the hospital that night.

He took her hand and thanked her for caring for him at the scene, she said.

The CBC News investigation revealed the Justice Department has no policies about prisoner transport in inclement weather or the use of seatbelts.

It also revealed the director of Sheriff Services had ordered employees to recall and delete any forwarded emails containing photographs of the wrecked van and to destroy any hard copies.​

The minister was grilled about the government secrecy in the legislature on Wednesday and again on Thursday. Lifford said it was "very disappointing and unfortunate" but called it an "isolated incident."

He would not comment on whether any disciplinary action will be taken.