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Fredericton handles influx of first responders for regimental funeral

Last Updated Aug 17, 2018 at 3:20 pm EDT

FREDERICTON – Police officers and other first responders were arriving by the thousands — by car, on commercial flights, and even on chartered planes — descending on this small capital city for a regimental funeral Saturday for two of their own.

They are coming from across the continent for the service for Fredericton police constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns, who were killed responding to a shooting that also claimed the lives of civilians Donnie Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright.

There was no shortage of volunteers as the city handled the logistics of so many people arriving on such short notice.

The first responders were filling up Fredericton hotels or staying with colleagues, while many were also billeted out to the homes of people who have offered a room.

Const. Robb Hartlen, a member of the Kensington, P.E.I., police force whose hometown is Fredericton, organized drivers to ferry people to and from the airport.

Amy Watson of Fredericton stood in the arrivals area Friday with a sign offering a drive to anyone in the city for the service.

Watson said she saw the need for drivers on social media and immediately offered her services.

“That’s the way New Brunswick is. If you’re ever stuck anywhere, people just want to help. I’m just one of many, and there are probably another 50 here that are willing to help out. That’s just the way we are,” she said.

Hartlen said so many people in the grief-striken city want to do something to help.

“You don’t have to be wearing a badge to feel the loss the city is feeling,” he said. “They want to do something, and this is the something that a lot of people can actually do to say they are helping out.”

Aside from regular commercial flights, there are a number of charter flights whose passengers are all first responders that will arrive before Saturday’s funeral service, including one to arrive late Saturday morning.

That flight, from Toronto, will have officers from across North America.

“Even without a delay it’s going to be a real tight turnaround to get everybody in uniform and up to the muster site,” Hartlen said.

Those attending the regimental funeral will march from Fredericton High School to the University of New Brunswick campus beginning at noon AT, with the funeral expected to begin at 1 p.m. AT.

Const. Sara O’Toole of the Kingston, Ont., police, is new to policing, but felt compelled to travel to her hometown for the regimental funeral.

She arrived with two other members of her force, and said every officer can identify with the dangers of the job, and feel the need to console each other.

“We feel for each other and we come together. We understand what everyone does out there on the roads, so it’s tough, but it’s a strong family and I’m proud to be a part of it,” she said.

Larry Burns, an officer from Durham Regional Police in Ontario, was also met by family at the Fredericton airport.

When he heard about last Friday’s shooting, Burns said, he immediately thought of friends who are part of the Fredericton force.

“It makes me think about all my friends that are back here, and all my colleagues and just have to stay safe,” he said.