Breaking horrible news to an immediate family member who has lost a loved one is never easy.
Just ask Oak Bay Chief Const. Mark Fisher.
Through his years with the RCMP, and more recently as a member of the Oak Bay Police Department, Fisher has had to relay grim details of accidents involving residents from his various jurisdictions.
On Dec. 28, the chief was dispatched to the Zuick home in Oak Bay. Melanie Zuick, 55, had perished in a head-on collision on Highway 1 just north of Spences Bridge in B.C.’s Southern Interior. Daughter Brittany, 17 and a Grade 12 student at Mount Douglas secondary, was injured in the crash and taken by ambulance to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, and is recovering well back home.
Monte Zuick, Melanie’s husband, told the News he was extremely grateful for the initial support of the chief in helping deal with the tragedy.
“He was doing double duty,” Zuick said of Fisher’s efforts. “I had him for four or five hours that day.”
As well as filling Zuick in on details of the situation, Fisher helped arrange a flight to Kamloops so Zuick could be with his daughter as quickly as possible.
“You try to guide them through the ‘what happens next’ process,” Fisher said. “For most people, (they’re in shock), they have no idea (where to turn first), whether it’s making funeral arrangements or travel arrangements.”
Time is of the essence in such situations, he said. The police agency handling details on scene will usually send a message to the police agency in the victim’s place of residence to notify next of kin.
“You want to let them know as soon as possible, so people don’t hear about it first through the media,” Fisher said. “You try to ensure that you’ve got somebody with them as soon as possible.”
Passing on such difficult information with compassion, sensitivity and accuracy is key, he said. Such skills are developed initially during basic police training, then later through sessions with victim services staff and by spending time with veteran officers.
Fisher’s approach in this case prompted Zuick to submit a letter to the News.
In it he stated, “Following my family’s ordeal under such tragic circumstances, I can honestly say that the community of Oak Bay as a whole is being well served by (Chief) Fisher.”