By Daymond Steer
AUGUSTA — Well over a thousand people were in attendance at the Augusta Civic Center Friday to pay their respects to fallen Fryeburg Police Officer Nathan M. Desjardins and his grieving family.
Among those who gathered were friends, police officers, firefighters and emergency personnel representing nearly every corner of Maine, as well as several surrounding states.
Desjardins was only 20 years old when he died last week as a result of injuries he sustained in a patrol boat crash on the Saco River.
On May 27, he and fellow Fryeburg officer Dale Stout, 51, struck an object in the water with their jet boat as they were attempting to join a Maine Warden Service search to find missing canoeist Jennifer Bousquet, 38, of South Berwick, Maine.
Following days of rain and much snowmelt, the river was running high and fast that day.
Bousquet had been out on the river with Wayne Demers, 62, of Somersworth and her boyfriend, Bryan Day, 54, of South Berwick, Maine, when their two canoes capsized. Bousquet's body was located on May 30, yards from where she was last seen in the canoe.
Desjardins, of Albion, Maine, who sustained head injuries as the result of the boat crash, died at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston on June 6. He would have turned 21 on June 12, according to his obituary.
Stout was released from the hospital but will take time to recover.
After Desjardin's death, Fryeburg Police Chief Joshua Potvin out out a statement.
"In the course of a police officer's responsibilities, they expose themselves to very real risks and dangers every day," said Potvin. "Members of the Fryeburg Police Department are deeply saddened by the tragic death of our colleague. We offer our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the family, fellow colleagues and friends of Nathan."
Desjardins' obituary says that he enjoyed serving the public as an EMT and a reserve police officer and was using the money he earned to pay for his college education. He had completed his third year at the University of New England School of Nursing. His obituary asks people to consider making a memorial gift in his name to the University of New England, 716 Stevens Ave., Portland, ME 04103.
Desjardin became Maine's 85th law enforcement officer to die in the line of duty.
Officer Michelle Legare set up a GoFundMe account for the Desjardins family on June 2 (www.gofundme.com/nathandesjardines). As of noon Friday, it had collected over $7,000 of its $25,000 goal.
On the GoFundMe page, Potvin noted Dejardin's birthday.
"I hope the angels throw you one heck of a party in heaven," wrote Potvin.