Ceremony and cup honour lost officers

Sophia ConstantineNorth West Telegraph
Pilbara District Superintendent Paul Coombes.
Camera IconPilbara District Superintendent Paul Coombes.

A moving remembrance ceremony was held in Newman last weekend to pay tribute to four police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.

The memorial service was attended by more than 200 people, including the families of the fallen servicemen, WA police, community members and emergency services personnel, who gathered at the crash site of the incident.

In 2001, Senior Constable Phillip Ruland, First Class Const. David Dewar, Sen. Const. Donald Everett and Const. Gavin Capes were travelling in a light plane arriving at Newman Airport.

The officers were returning from duty at the Kiwirrkurra community on January 26 when their plane went down, killing them instantly.

The event was the greatest loss of police life in a single incident in Australian history.

Bruce Morris.
Camera IconBruce Morris. Credit: Sophia Constantine.

Newman Senior Sergeant Mark Fleskens addressed the crowd at the ceremony, acknowledging everyone for their support and generosity towards WA Police Legacy.

He said the support of the community was a testament to its dedication to keeping the spirit of the officers alive.

Sen. Sgt. Fleskens said without the community’s ongoing support, there would be no event. Police Minister Michelle Roberts and Commissioner of Police Chris Dawson were among those who travelled to Newman to pay their respects.

Newman Senior Sergeant Mark Fleskens.
Camera IconNewman Senior Sergeant Mark Fleskens. Credit: Sophia Constantine.

Speaking at the memorial crash site, Ms Roberts said the event was a fitting tribute to the lives of the deceased officers.

Police Minister Michelle Roberts MLA pays tribute to the fallen policemen.
Camera IconPolice Minister Michelle Roberts MLA pays tribute to the fallen policemen. Credit: Sophia Constantine.

“To see all the children here marking the occasion makes it even more special and more poignant,” she said.

“A gathering like this annually means that the memory will not be forgotten — their legacy lives on.”

Ms Roberts said the impact of the tragedy had a profound impact on friends, families of the deceased, colleagues and the community.

Amy Ruland, a relative of Phillip Ruland, recalls the names of the deceased policemen alongside Newman Senior Sergeant Mark Flesken.
Camera IconAmy Ruland, a relative of Phillip Ruland, recalls the names of the deceased policemen alongside Newman Senior Sergeant Mark Flesken.

“Throughout the history of Western Australia, there has been some 83 police offices that have lost their lives,” she said. “There’s nothing I can say that will console those families who lost their loved ones ... or indeed those colleagues who lost some very close friends.”

Police commissioner Chris Dawson said the legacy of the four officers continued through the wonderful community spirit.

The Police Pipe band played throughout the memorial.
Camera IconThe Police Pipe band played throughout the memorial. Credit: Picture: Sophia Constantine.

“It’s always going to be painful to remember our fallen, but we can walk, and we will continue to walk with the families and with our colleagues, and indeed with the broader community,” he said.

“We know the families continue to grieve and we continue to grieve with them.”

The sound of bagpipes drifted through the crowd as WA Police, families of the fallen and community groups were called upon to lay wreaths.

Newman Scout Group’s Bella Post, Carissa McGrigor and Alex Micallef were called upon to lay wreaths.
Camera IconNewman Scout Group’s Bella Post, Carissa McGrigor and Alex Micallef were called upon to lay wreaths. Credit: Sophia Constantine

In a show of solidarity, two WA Police Air Wing planes performed a flyover after one minute of silence. Various activities were held over the weekend in the lead-up to The Bloody Slow Cup tournament on Saturday night, including soccer tournaments, mixed touch rugby and women’s touch.

A large contingent of WA Police were at the service to pay their heartfelt respects.
Camera IconA large contingent of WA Police were at the service to pay their heartfelt respects.

Once the ceremony ended, special guests including Western Force players, Rugby WA and local and senior police appeared at Newman Shopping Centre for a meet-and-great session.

Funds raised throughout the lead-up to the event went towards WA Police Legacy, an organisation that cares for families of police officers who have lost their lives while serving their communities.

The Bloody Slow cup pitted Aussies against Kiwis in a friendly rivalry.

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