AUGUSTA — Hundreds of law enforcement officers from around Maine and beyond the state gathered in solemn silence Friday to honor the service of a Fryeburg police officer who succumbed to injuries suffered during a water rescue.

Nathan M. Desjardins, a reserve officer who was completing a nursing degree at the University of New England, was only 20 when he suffered severe head trauma after the jet boat he was in struck something below the surface and flipped over during the search effort in late May.

Desjardins grew up in the Kennebec County town of Albion, graduating in 2014 from Lawrence High School.

The service, held at the Augusta Civic Center, was closed to the press, at the family’s request.

As rain fell, hundreds of officers lined up in formation to salute Desjardins’ family as they arrived in a black limousine.

A trooper and a game warden greeted the family, and carried an urn containing Desjardins’ ashes, along with a folded American flag, into the arena.

The hundreds of officers filed in after them, as a color guard stood motionless while the officers streamed past.

In brief comments after the ceremony, Fryeburg Police Chief Joshua Potvin thanked the law enforcement community for the overwhelming show of support and prayers since Desjardins’ injury and his death several days later, and acknowledged the support of the wider community in western Maine.

“I’m also thankful for so many in the Fryeburg community during this tragedy,” Potvin said. “To officer Nathan M. Desjardins, your professionalism, dedication, enthusiasm and ultimate personal sacrifice for the betterment of our community will never be forgotten.”

Desjardins was injured May 27 when he and another officer, Dale Stout, were searching along the Saco River for a missing woman whose canoe also had flipped in the fast-moving water. Their boat struck something and flipped over.

Stout was seriously injured but was released from the hospital a few days later. Desjardins, originally of Albion, never recovered. He died June 6.

Game wardens are investigating what caused the boat to capsize, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.

The body of the missing canoeist, Jennifer Bousquet, 38, of South Berwick, was found May 30 in about 8 feet of water, and about 350 feet from where her canoe overturned.

Desjardins’ father, Brian, and brother, Ross, spoke at the ceremony Friday, according to the program, along with police from the Fryeburg and Freeport departments, where Desjardins had worked. Desjardins’ mother, Nicole, was also present but was not on the list of speakers.

Desjardins was a part-time officer in Fryeburg. He was injured on his first day of water rescue training with Stout, who had extensive experience on the Saco River, according to a colleague.

Prior to his part-time employment as an officer in Fryeburg, Desjardins was a volunteer member of the Albion Fire Department. More recently, he worked as an EMT, said Freeport police Lt. Nate Goodman.

“Nathan exhibits an uncommon trait amongst many young people in that he was able to juggle an 18-credit-hour workload in school at the University of New England along with a job as an EMT with Delta Ambulance, and he was field training and working toward part-time status as a police officer,” Goodman said. “That’s a difficult thing for anyone to juggle, let alone someone 20 years old.”

Goodman said Desjardins came to the Freeport department in the summer of 2016, but transitioned to working for Fryeburg because he would be trained more quickly there.

Goodman said Desjardins’ ultimate goal was to work full time in nursing and part time as a police officer.

“He exemplified the type of person we are looking for in a police candidate and we were fortunate to have a chance to work with him,” Goodman said. “Today is truly a tough day for the law enforcement community in Maine as well as the citizens of Maine. We want to let his family know we all mourn with them for this loss.”


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