Guelph officer killed in crash was fulfilling 'childhood dream'
Published Thursday, March 14, 2013 9:45AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 14, 2013 8:28PM EDT
A Guelph police officer who was killed in an early-morning crash is being remembered as a vibrant and dynamic woman, who was working her dream job in her hometown.
Const. Jennifer Kovach became a police officer because she wanted to give back and help others in the community where she spent her entire life, said Guelph police Chief Bryan Larkin.
Larkin said the 26-year-old woman achieved her goal in her four-year career, and she had the potential to do so much more.
“There are no words to express our sorrow, there are no words to express our sadness,” Larkin told reporters at a news conference. “Jennifer was fulfilling her childhood dream, which was to be a police officer. Policing is not an occupation. It’s a calling, it’s a craft.”
Kovach, 26, died after her marked police cruiser collided with a public transit bus on Imperial Road South in Guelph as she responded to a call Thursday at about 12:30 a.m.
She is the third Guelph police officer to die in the line of duty, but the first in almost 50 years, Larkin said.
Kovach was the daughter of Guelph city Coun. Gloria Kovach.
Larkin said the young, dedicated constable was a self-described daredevil who loved to ride motorcycles and had a passion for dogs.
“She always had this great smile, this incredible zest for life,” Larkin said. “I cannot say enough about what an incredible human being she was.”
As a 16-year-old high school student, Kovach set her sights on a career in policing and sought guidance from a police officer who was stationed at the school.
The officer gave Kovach a list of tasks to complete to help her understand what it takes to become a cop.
Kovach completed each task and later was successful in the recruiting and training processes, Larkin said.
She could have pursued the career in any community, but she chose to serve her hometown, located about 70 kilometres west of Toronto.
“We’re so very proud of Jennifer,” Larkin said.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted about the officer's death.
"Tragic news out of Guelph. Condolences to the friends and family of Constable Jennifer Kovach," Harper wrote in a tweet to his 314,000 Twitter followers.
In a written statement, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she was saddened to learn of Kovach’s death.
“She was so young, with such a promising career ahead of her and her presence will be missed on the job and throughout her community," Wynne said in the statement. "Ontario owes a debt of gratitude to Const. Kovach and all of our police officers, who do so much to serve and protect the people of this province."
Police cruiser crossed centre line before crash
Police continue to investigate the cause of the crash that killed Kovach, but they are looking into whether road and weather conditions were factors.
Light snow was falling and the temperature had dropped to -7 C when Kovach’s northbound cruiser crossed the centre line and collided with the oncoming bus, Larkin said.
It is believed she lost control of the cruiser as she responded to a call to assist a fellow officer, he said.
Kovach was working alone at the time. Guelph’s police vehicles do not have on-board cameras, so there is no dash-cam video of the collision, Larkin told reporters.
Firefighters freed Kovach from her vehicle and she was rushed to Guelph General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The female driver of the Guelph Transit bus was taken to hospital, where she was treated for minor injuries. There were no passengers on the bus at the time.
Police are asking anyone with information about the crash to call investigators at 519-824-1212 ext. 7480.
Plans for memorial
Because Kovach was a homegrown officer, her death is having a tremendous impact on the city of 121,000, Larkin said.
In a joint statement, Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge and chief administrative officer Ann Pappert offered their condolences to Kovach’s family.
“There are no words that can adequately express our sorrow over their tragic loss,” Farbridge and Pappert said in the written statement.
Farbridge and Pappert also offered condolences to the city’s police service.
“We would like to express our gratitude for their brave service, and assure them that Const. Kovach will always be remembered for her sacrifice to keep our community safe.”
Larkin said his force, comprised of 195 officers, will memorialize Kovach to ensure that she is never forgotten.
Kovach will receive a public funeral with full police honours, officials in Guelph confirmed Thursday evening.
The date of the service has not been confirmed.
Police officers offer support
Police services and unions offered their condolences after Kovach’s death was announced.
“When something like this happens … it sends a sort of shockwave of despair and sadness throughout the entire police community,” said Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack, whose union represents Toronto Police Service officers.
McCormack said the focus now is to rally around Kovach’s family and colleagues to offer support and help them through a tragic time.
“Right now, our main concern is for her family and to help them to get them through this,” McCormack told CP24 reporter Katie Simpson. “It is an absolutely devastating and terrible experience.”
McCormack said Toronto police officers are planning to attend Kovach’s funeral, just days after they returned from a funeral in Ottawa for Const. Steve Dery.
Dery, a 27-year-old member of the Kativik Regional Police Force, was fatally shot while answering a call at a home in the community of Kuujjuaq in northern Quebec on March 2.
The last time a Guelph police officer was killed was 1964, when off-duty Const. Walter Eric MacAulay, 37, intervened in a struggle between a beat officer and an intoxicated motorist.
According to the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation, MacAulay, who was with his five-year-old daughter, died after he was dragged by the vehicle.
In 1922, Const. William M. Holloway, 30, and a fellow officer were on bicycle patrol after eating their midnight lunch when they noticed a speeding car.
The officers stood in the middle of the road and waved their arms to signal the driver to stop, but the car struck Holloway, who was carried a distance before he was thrown to the ground and suffered fatal injuries.
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