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Northern Ont. bridge dedicated to fallen officer

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In a touching tribute Thursday, friends, family and fellow police officers gathered in Elk Lake, Ont., to honor the legacy of provincial Const. Vaughn B. McKay, who lost his life while responding to a collision on Highway 17 in July 1973.

OPP Const. Vaughn B. McKay died in a car crash while on duty in 1973. May 2, 2024 (Sergio Arangio/CTV Northern Ontario)

McKay, who was stationed in Sudbury at the time, collided with a vehicle that unexpectedly obstructed his path, resulting in severe head injuries.

Despite efforts in hospital to save him, the 23-year-old succumbed to his injuries five months later, leaving behind his pregnant wife and son.

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique was present for the ceremony.

"Provincial Const. McKay will continue to be remembered for the profound sacrifice that he made," Carrique said.

Dave Dube, representing the Ontario Provincial Police Association, echoed this sentiment in a speech, describing McKay as "a hero in life, not death."

The OPP, with the help of the provincial transportation ministry, wanted to honour McKay’s memory by dedicating a bridge in his hometown to his name.

Const. Vaughn B. McKay Memorial Bridge. May 2, 2024 (Ontario Provincial Police)

McKay had only been an OPP constable for two years when the fatal crash happened.

"Vaughn was born and raised in Elk Lake, so to have a bridge in his hometown dedicated to his memory is very special,” said family member Joy McKay, adding that the bridge was visible from his childhood home.

Widow Darlene McKay fondly recalled growing up with her high school sweetheart, describing him as "a great guy, super sports person."

"Very good character, very funny, a fellow who would tease all the time," she said.

Speakers emphasized the inherent risks of police work and the willingness of officers to protect the public, often facing unrecognized dangers.

Officials highlighted the significance of dedicating bridges to fallen officers, both as a way to honor their legacy and to show respect for those currently serving on the front lines.

"To know that community respects the difficult and dangerous job that they do and it's a constant reminder to community, as well, to, hopefully, recognize the efforts that officers put in, the risks that they take and to give thanks," said Carrique.

The OPP and MTO have dedicated around 75 bridges and highway structures to fallen officers since the program's launch in 2002. 

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