Honouring our fallen women

Of the 234 fallen members on the RCMP Honour Roll, five are women who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving and protecting. As we rightly remember all who have served and given their lives in wars and conflicts around the world on Remembrance Day, it is also fitting – as we mark the 40th anniversary of the first RCMP female troop – to recognize those RCMP women who've died in the line of duty.

Three of the women died in vehicle collisions, one in a plane crash and one murdered by a fleeing suspect in a domestic dispute. Every police officer knows the dangers they face every time they report for duty, that there's a chance they won't be back when they say goodbye to their loved ones. But they still report and serve with dedication and compassion.

These are the stories of five women – mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, valued friends and colleagues – who didn't come home.

Cst. Della Beyak – D.O.D.: March 15, 1989

There was a raging snowstorm on March 15, 1989, near Assiniboia, Saskatchewan when Cst. Della Beyak was responding to a call for assistance at a collision. The slow-moving transport truck in front of her was blowing up blinding snow so she edged out to see if she could pass when she tragically collided with the coroner who had just left the scene of the crash. An ambulance that was also leaving the scene then hit the two vehicles from behind.

With just nine months service, the 21-year-old avid figure skater and Ukrainian dancer was killed, making her the first female RCMP officer to die in the line of duty. She'd always wanted to be a police officer and studied criminology at the University of Manitoba.

The coroner was also killed and the ambulance driver suffered serious injuries. Beyak was buried in Winnipegosis, Manitoba.

S/Cst. Nancy Puttkemery – D.O.D.: December 9, 1989

S/Cst. Nancy Puttkemery died doing what she loved – flying. The Force's first female pilot, the 34-year-old was living her dream flying around the region and into Canada's north for "K" Division Air Services.

On December 9, 1989, she and S/Cst. Vincent Timms were returning to Edmonton, Alberta in a Cessna 182 after assisting on an operational file in Calgary when heavy snow and low visibility forced them to turn back. While making a turn at low altitude, one of the wings hit a guy wire and the plane fell from the sky, killing both souls on board.

Puttkemery was among the early female pioneers who became police officers with the RCMP when she started training in December 1975. She served in several detachments on general duty until 1986 when she gave up her constable status to become a special constable so she could fly with the RCMP (at the time, pilot positions were limited to the civilian, special constable status). During her posting with Air Services, Puttkemery earned certification on the Cessna 182, the Beaver and the Single and Twin Otters.

Cst. Christine Diotte – D.O.D.: March 12, 2002

Cst. Christine Diotte was setting up caution warnings at the scene of a rollover west of Banff, Alberta during a worsening snowstorm on March 12, 2002, when a vehicle ran out of control on the icy highway hitting her and Cst. David Davis.

Two doctors, who happened to be driving by, helped to stabilize the pair and both were taken to the hospital in Banff where Diotte died. Her husband, a fellow Mountie, was by her side. Davis suffered serious internal injuries but survived.

Diotte, 35, always dreamed of joining the RCMP and graduated from training in 1996. First posted to Hinton, Alberta, she quickly became part of the community, volunteering with the local Victim Services Unit and leading DARE classes.

At the time of her death, she was posted to Banff Detachment and was Davis' training officer. Just six days after the collision, Davis was taken by ambulance from Calgary to Banff to attend Diotte's funeral. He put on his Red Serge and, although still in extreme pain, stood from his wheelchair and gave his training officer one final salute as she passed by.

Cst. Robin Cameron – D.O.D.: July 15, 2006

Thousands attended the nationally televised funeral of Cst. Robin Cameron who, along with Cst. Marc Bourdages, was shot following a high-speed chase by a suspect in a domestic dispute near Spiritwood, Saskatchewan on July 7, 2006.

The two constables died within a day of each other of their wounds in hospital as the tragedy gripped the nation. Cameron, 29, died July 15, 2006, and there was a sea of Red Serge, along with officers from many other emergency services, at her funeral on the Beardy's and Okemasis First Nation where she grew up. The local high school now bears her name in memory.

The RCMP had always been part of Cameron's life. Her father and an uncle were both Mounties and she knew at an early age that policing was her future. She faced many challenges along the way but overcame each of them to achieve her dream. Joining the RCMP in July 2001, she was first posted to Beauval, Saskatchewan, and transferred to the Spiritwood Detachment in 2003.

At her funeral, Cameron was described as an inspiration who lived each day to the fullest and had a smile that touched hearts. She was a role model for youth who loved putting on the uniform. Her 11-year-old daughter Shayne, wrote in a letter to her mother read during the service, "… don't worry, Mom. I'll be OK. I know you'll be there for me. You'll see me graduate, have my own kids. And my daughter will be named Robin and know that her grandma was a hero."

The killer was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and the attempted murder of another officer who was also shot but survived her injuries and was a key witness at the 2009 trial. He was sentenced to three life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years, the maximum allowable on all counts.

Cst. Chelsey Robinson – D.O.D.: June 21, 2010

Cst. Chelsey Robinson was searching for an impaired driver shortly before 1 a.m. on June 21, 2010, when she was in a collision with a transport truck near Stony Plain, Alberta. She was critically injured and died shortly after, becoming the fifth female RCMP officer to die in the line of duty.

While only a police officer for seven months, Robinson, 25, had been part of the RCMP for several years at the time of her tragic death. Before going to "Depot" Division for cadet training, she worked for nearly two years in the Forensic Identification Section in Edmonton, Alberta after studying forensic biology at the University of Toronto.

Among other qualities, she's remembered as an outstanding student and a superior cadet who was always willing to help her troopmates and made a significant contribution to her detachment.

Read the previous In Focus, Female First and Meet Troop 17 features

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