An RCMP officer from the Maritimes who was working to train Haiti's police force was killed in the massive quake that hit the island country Tuesday.
The body of Sgt. Mark Gallagher, who was based in Nova Scotia, was found Thursday afternoon in the rubble of the building where he was living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti's capital. He had returned to the country just before the earthquake struck on Tuesday after spending Christmas vacation in Canada.
At a news conference in Halifax, Steve Graham, the RCMP deputy commissioner for the Atlantic region, remembered Gallagher as a family man who was very proud of his wife, Lisa, and their two adult children, Shane and Heather.
"He spoke fondly and often of his children and his spouse and wished he could be closer to them," Graham said. "Like any proud father, he was happy to give an update on how they were doing and share any of their recent achievements."
Graham said the RCMP family is devastated by his death, and they're remembering Gallagher as a man who loved the water and sailing.
Cpl. Joe Taplin, the RCMP spokesman for Halifax, said he is in shock and disbelief at the news of Gallagher's death.
He said he often met Gallagher for coffee and they would talk about their kids.
"He was such a nice, outgoing type of person that just wanted to help people," Taplin said. "He always had a smile for everybody, and he never took things too serious. He just went with the flow."
Flags were flying at half-mast at all fire and police departments in Halifax on Thursday night.
Gallagher's death was announced by RCMP Commissioner William Elliott at an Ottawa news conference. Elliott extended his condolences to Gallagher's family.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also offered his condolences to Gallagher’s family.
"Laureen and I extend our deepest sympathies to Mark’s wife, Lisa, and their two children Shane and Heather," he said in a statement.
"Sgt. Gallagher was one of almost 100 brave Canadian police officers currently part of the UN mission in Haiti. These men and women have left the comfort of their homes and families to dedicate themselves to providing a better future to one of the poorest countries in this hemisphere."
Harper said this is the first time a serving Canadian police officer has been killed on active duty in an international peacekeeping operation.
Wife spoke to officer just before quake
Gallagher, 50, had been in Haiti since July, helping to train the national police force as part of a United Nations mission called Project Co-ordination, based in Port-au-Prince.
Prior to that, he was based in Halifax and acted as the RCMP spokesman for Halifax and the New Brunswick cities of Moncton and Bathurst.
His wife of 30 years, Lisa Gallagher, lives in New Brunswick, where Gallagher was scheduled to resume work with the force when he returned to Canada in April.
Earlier Thursday, she told the CBC she spoke to her husband only 30 minutes before the quake hit. He planned to take a nap.
"He told me that he was really tired after the flight, and he made an executive decision not to go to the office," she said. "I'm thinking now that he was probably the only one in the apartment."
Gallagher shared an apartment in a two-storey building in the United Nations compound with several peacekeepers, who are all accounted for.
He joined the Moncton police force in 1985 and became an RCMP officer in 1998.
In 2007, Gallagher was promoted to sergeant as the media relations officer for Nova Scotia and worked out of Halifax.
Sgt. Brigdit Leger took over Gallagher's job when he left for Haiti six months ago.
"Mark's RCMP family is heartbroken, and there are no words that can describe the incredible loss all of us are feeling today," she said in a news release Thursday.
Gallagher was the recipient of the Queen's Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal in 2002 and earned the Police Exemplary Service Medal for over 20 years of police service.
Leger said arrangements are being made to return Gallagher's body to Canada.