British Columbia

Thousands mourn B.C. paramedics

More than 3,000 people gather in the Vancouver Island community of Tofino to mourn two paramedics killed in a crash last month.

More than 3,000 people gathered in the Vancouver Island community of Tofino on Saturday to mourn two paramedics killed in a crash last month.

The new ambulance brought in to replace the one that crashed will be inscribed with the names of the two paramedics. ((Tofino Photography))
Jo-Ann Fuller, 59, and Ivan Polivka, 65, died on Oct. 19 when their ambulance plunged 60 metres from Highway 4 into Kennedy Lake about 4 a.m. as they were returning after transferring a patient to Port Alberni.

The town of 1,500 residents more than doubled in size as police officers, firefighters, military personnel and government officials from across the country, as well as friends and family, paid tribute to the two paramedics.

Daughter Jami Fuller told those gathered at the memorial she is proud of how her mother lived her life.

"Jo-Ann Fuller was an exceptional woman, wife, sister, mother, and grandmother," she said.

"She was passionate about her family and her career. Being a paramedic was more than just a job for her — it was a way of life, a calling. We want to thank the community for all of their overwhelming support and we'd also like to thank B.C. Ambulance Service for everything they have done."

Health Minister Kevin Falcon and Tofino Mayor John Fraser also attended the memorial.

A large procession of decorated police officers, Mounties and emergency personnel wound its way through the town in honour of Fuller and Polivka.

Stewart MacPherson, who travelled from Winnipeg to be a part of the honour guard, plans to pay tribute to the two paramedics as he travels home.

Mounties from across the country travelled to Tofino, B.C., for the memorial march. ((Tofino Photography))
"What I am going to do when we drive back to Nanaimo is that I am going to stop … and play my pipes by the roadside where they went off to honour that."

The names of the paramedics will be inscribed on the new ambulance brought in to replace the one that crashed.

The memorial came together as a result of a huge volunteer effort in the community.

The town built a massive tent on an elementary school's playing field to hold the memorial, and some resorts and bed-and-breakfasts offered free accommodation packages to those attending the memorial.

In addition, Pacific Rim National Park provided free parking in its lots and shuttles to the service to help reduce traffic congestion.

Ten B.C. paramedics — including Fuller and Polivka — have died on the job since the early 1970s.