A 20-year-old Fryeburg police officer died Tuesday from injuries he sustained last month while trying to save a boater’s life on the first day of his water rescue training with the department.

Nathan M. Desjardins died at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Fryeburg Police Chief Joshua Potvin said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

Desjardins was a passenger in the police department’s motorized jet boat, which was responding to a report of a capsized canoe when it hit a submerged object near shore as it rounded a bend in the Saco River.

The impact of the collision threw Desjardins and another police officer, 51-year-old Dale Stout, from the boat. Stout was operating the rescue boat when it struck the object.

Desjardins sustained a severe head injury in the May 27 accident. Stout, who is also a Biddeford firefighter, was hospitalized but is now at home and recovering from his injuries.

The canoeist whom Stout and Desjardins were trying to rescue, 38-year-old Jennifer Bousquet of South Berwick, drowned that day. Her body was found four days later, about 350 feet from where her canoe overturned. Two men in the canoe with Bousquet were able to make it to shore.

“In the course of a police officer’s responsibilities, they expose themselves to very real risks and dangers every day,” Potvin said in the statement. “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 grew up in the Kennebec County town of Albion, graduating in 2014 from Lawrence High School. He recently became a student at the University of New England and was studying to become a nurse.

“The University of New England is deeply saddened at the news that Nathan Desjardins, a nursing student here at UNE, has died,” UNE President Danielle Ripich said in a statement Wednesday. “Nate lost his life while working to save others in his duties as a Fryeburg police officer. It was his passion for helping people that made him a gifted nursing student, and he will always be a part of the UNE family. Our deepest condolences go out to his family.”

VOLUNTEER AND NURSING STUDENT

Desjardins was employed as a part-time reserve officer by the Fryeburg department and had worked there just over two months. He was applying for a position in the Waterville Police Department at the time of his accident. He also was a volunteer member of the Albion Fire Department and was pursuing his EMT certification.

His brother, Ross Desjardins, reached by phone Wednesday night, said his parents were not ready to make any statements about the loss of their son and were still in the process of making funeral arrangements and writing an obituary.

According to the nonprofit Officer Down Memorial Page, 57 police officers in the United States have lost their lives in the line of duty this year. Desjardins is the only officer to have died in Maine in the line of duty this year.

His death drew responses from across the state and even from Capitol Hill.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of Nathan’s passing,” Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King said in a joint statement issued Wednesday night. “Nathan bravely put himself in harm’s way to serve and protect the community he loved. Today, we join with the people of Maine in mourning his loss, but we will always recall with gratitude in our hearts his selfless service to our state.”

MOURNED BY MANY DEPARTMENTS

Several Maine police departments also reacted to the news of Desjardins’ death on their Facebook pages. South Portland, Scarborough, Westbrook and Wells police sent their prayers to his family, friends and co-workers, with South Portland police saying, “RIP and God’s speed, brother. We’ll take your watch from here.”

“Our hearts are with our brothers and sisters in blue at the Fryeburg Police Department as Officer Nathan Desjardins has succumbed to his injuries from a boating accident,” Wells police said.

The Maine Warden Service is investigating the boating accident. In a statement posted on its Facebook page, the warden service wrote, “Our deepest sympathy goes out to the Desjardins family and Fryeburg Police Department during this most difficult time.”

Desjardins’ death was the seventh boating fatality in Maine this year, the warden service said. The state had six in all of 2016 and one in 2015.

Chief Potvin said Desjardins’ death has left members of his department with heavy hearts and great sadness.

“During this extremely difficult time of mourning the loss of one of my own, I have to find the words and strength to inspire my officers, to motivate them and reassure them that together we will be OK and still have a job to do,” Potvin said. “On behalf of your fellow brothers and sisters at Fryeburg police, rest in peace buddy, we’ll take it from here.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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