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John Rossiter--Halifax Canada EMS

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  • John Rossiter--Halifax Canada EMS

    Paramedic John Rossiter, age 31, of the Halifax EMS service was killed last night while on duty. Halifax was hit by Hurricane Juan, and Rossiter was responding to a call during the storm, when a large tree fell on his ambulance, killing him. May he rest in peace.

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    Paramedic killed during storm lauded for his spirit, dedication

    Remembered as a hero
    Paramedic killed during storm lauded for his spirit, dedication
    By Jennifer Stewart

    John Michael Rossiter called his parents in Newfoundland just hours before his death at the height of hurricane Juan early Monday morning.

    "I'm at work right now and something really exciting is happening here in Halifax," the 31-year-old paramedic told his father.

    "John, be safe," Bill Rossiter warned his son.

    "You were in this business 30 years and you were OK," John replied casually.

    But tragedy struck just after 1 a.m., when a 20-metre tree fell, crushing the rear end of the ambulance in which Mr. Rossiter was riding.

    He was killed instantly.

    The native of Mount Pearl, Nfld., had worked as a paramedic in the Halifax area for about 10 years. Both family and friends agreed that he was devoted to his career.

    "He very much loved his work. It was a huge part of his life," said his sister, Karen Rossiter.

    "He became a paramedic partly because it was in the family and partly because he wanted to help people."

    Mr. Rossiter's elder brother worked as a paramedic before him, then went on to become a police officer. His father is a retired deputy fire chief.

    Ms. Rossiter said her brother just loved to be around people - "a typical Newfoundlander."

    She went on to describe her elder brother as single with no children, although devoted to his relatives.

    Mr. Rossiter was also involved in sports. He swam competitively for a number of years and was a nationally certified lifeguard. He played soccer and hockey while growing up, as well as rugby in high school.

    On Tuesday, the whole Rossiter family visited Province House, where MLAs honoured the young paramedic with a moment of silence.

    "John Rossiter lived as a hero and will be remembered as a hero, first by his family, but also by Nova Scotians, by Newfoundlanders and by all Canadians who remember those who have lost their lives in the line of duty," Premier John Hamm said.

    His parents both wiped away tears during the tribute.

    A shrine to Mr. Rossiter has been set up at the accident site, on the corner of Veterans Memorial Lane and Summer Street.

    A paramedic's reflective vest hangs from a wrought-iron stake, part of the Camp Hill Cemetery fence that was toppled by uprooted and fallen trees.

    Broken glass from a vehicle lies scattered nearby, as well as two flashlights, bouquets and four paramedic badges.

    A ceramic figurine of a paramedic carrying his medical bag sits amid the mementos.

    In marker pen, people have written tributes to Mr. Rossiter on what appears to be vinyl upholstery from a vehicle.

    One, signed by R. Liddy, says: "You were taken too early for all you have done. You will be missed more than words can express. RIP."

    Mr. Rossiter was known as a dedicated trade union activist and at the time of his death was a member of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, Local 42.

    He led his co-workers through the 18-hour paramedic strike in 1999 and played a pivotal role in developing the first unionized contract for paramedics under one employer, Emergency Medical Care Inc.

    "John had a tremendous spirit," NSGEU president Joan Jessome said in a news release Tuesday.

    "We will never forget the contribution he made to this union or his dedication to protecting the rights of all paramedics in this province."

    Robert Boudreau of Antigonish was Mr. Rossiter's partner for almost four years, until last November. He said they became friends right away.

    "He died doing what he loved to do," Mr. Boudreau said.

    "He was a very good paramedic, very career-oriented. He performed at the top of his class."

    Mr. Boudreau recalled a brief conversation he had with a supervisor at work Monday.

    "He said to me, 'We lost a good paramedic today.' I looked at him and said, 'You lost three good paramedics when you lost John.' "

    The two often made appearances at community events, such as the annual Georges Island picnic.

    Mr. Rossiter also spent what little free time he had working part time as an actor and consultant for films shot in and around Halifax.

    He helped direct emergency room and accident scenes, his most recent part being a five-minute sequence in a new movie called Homeless in Harvard.

    Mr. Rossiter is the third Canadian paramedic to die in the line of duty this year. In remembrance, the Paramedic Association of Canada is urging workers across the country to wear black ribbons on their uniforms.

    Flags will also fly half-mast at ambulance stations.

    A visiting service will be held today between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Cruikshank's Halifax Funeral Home on Robie Street.


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