A year ago today Const. Michael Potvin drowned while on duty in Mayo.
Potvin was wearing soft body armour, a firearm, handcuffs, a baton and a duty belt when his boat capsized on the murky, swift-moving Stewart River on July 13, 2010.
That gear weighs more than 20 pounds, RCMP Sgt. Don Rogers said during a media briefing at the time.
On-duty RCMP officers are “required to wear the general duty belt at all times, and that includes when you’re operating a watercraft,” he said.
Potvin wasn’t wearing a lifejacket.
A year later, the RCMP is in the midst of reviewing its national policies on water transport and equipment standards, in conjunction with the Yukon division’s own review.
And a comprehensive Water Transport Program, focusing on equipment, vessels and improved training is in the works, according to a release issued yesterday.
The RCMP is also working on a national policy that requires detachment commanders to seek local information on environmental and geographical conditions so officers are more aware of known hazards in their area. As well, the Yukon division has been working with Transport Canada to inspect vessels and ensure regulatory compliance.
It has also purchased six new vessels to replace older ones and has purchased additional safety equipment, such as self-inflating personal floatation devices and thermal protection, said the release.
The Yukon division has reinstated water transport training, which was suspended following Const. Potvin’s death, and has provided enhanced practical training and certification on marine emergency duties and the safe handling and operation of vessels to more than 40 officers. The division has also put in place a system of “check rides” to ensure operators are proficient with the vessels they will be operating in their areas.
“I want to thank all the people of Mayo who lent their help and support to the RCMP and to the Potvin family,” said Chief Supt. Peter Clark in the release. “Sadly, nothing can bring Mike back, but we are taking all the steps we can to help prevent this from happening again.”
Today, the community of Mayo and the RCMP are dedicating a monument to Potvin’s memory at Binet Park in Mayo.
Potvin’s family, his wife Allison, the Commissioner of the RCMP, and Nacho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn Sr. are expected to attend the event.
“Mike’s death is a tragedy that has deeply saddened his family, the RCMP and the people of Mayo,” said Clark, in the release. “Our sympathies remain with Allison and their son Jack, and all those who are touched by his loss. We are hopeful that what we have learned – and continue to learn – along with the steps we have taken since the accident can help avert any such similar tragedies for our officers and their families in the future.”
Potvin and another RCMP member were operating an aluminum boat on the Stewart River when the vessel began taking on water and capsized not far from shore. The other member was assisted by witnesses who launched a boat to rescue the police officers. Potvin disappeared below the water while swimming to shore and did not resurface. An extensive search by RCMP, local agencies and the public was unsuccessful. The body of Potvin was recovered on July 30, 2010, approximately 50 kilometres downstream.
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