Paramedics were 'always there, always with a smile'
Thousands of emergency workers journeyed to the west coast of Vancouver Island on Saturday to pay tribute to two of their own who died in the line of duty.
Paramedics Jo-Ann Fuller, 59, and Ivan Polivka, 65, were killed after their vehicle tumbled more than 200 feet down an embankment and dove into Kennedy Lake, on a stretch of windy highway between Tofino and Port Alberni on Oct. 20.
Fellow first responders from across North America came together in Tofino to remember Polivka and Fuller in a sombre afternoon parade and ceremony. A crowd of 3,500 was predicted.
Two ambulances led a procession through the heart of town as a community mourned the loss of the highly respected paramedics.
Paramedics at the memorial told CTV News that emergency workers all feel the impact when someone is lost in the line of duty.
"I think it's something that we identify could happen to any and all of us, so it's important that we show our support," said Susan Wood, deputy chief for the York Region Emergency Medical Services in Ontario.
Paramedic Marc Mauer travelled from Seattle to attend the service.
"Whenever anybody dies in the line of duty, it affects everybody," he explained.
Inside a massive 25,000-square-foot tent erected for the service, Fuller and Polivka's boots were carried through an emotion-filled crowd.
"They were exemplary volunteers," Tofino Mayor John Fraser said. "Whenever something needed to be done, they were always there, always with a smile, always in good nature. And I just want to say to the families and to Jo-Ann and Ivan, thank you so very much for sharing your lives with us."
Fuller's brother Bob Hansen remembered her as a loving friend to all: "Jo collected friends -- she never let them go. She'll always be a little part of you."
Polivka was described as a lifelong outdoorsman who was planning to retire to a cabin he had built in the Yukon.
"Ivan was the ultimate survivor. He was a loner, but he made friends easily wherever he travelled," his stepson Fred Webber said.
Fuller and Polivka were both long-serving paramedics, with 23 and 14 years of experience, respectively. Fuller had recently become a grandmother, while Polivka had just lost his wife to cancer.
The two longtime paramedics had just transferred a patient to Port Alberni and were returning to Tofino when they were killed.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Brent Shearer