Police scale Katahdin in honor of Fryeburg officer who died in line of duty

Posted June 27, 2017, at 12:30 p.m.
Last modified June 27, 2017, at 5:52 p.m.

On Saturday, 18 members of several police departments from across the state joined forces to summit Maine’s highest mountain to honor fallen officers as part of the national “Cops on Top” Summit for Heroes event.

Members of the Kittery, York, Scarborough, Augusta and Westbrook police departments battled driving rain and 40 to 50 mph wind gusts to reach to top of Mount Katahdin, located in Baxter State Park. Kittery police Lt. John Desjardins said the entire journey took approximately 12 hours after setting out at 7 a.m.

[Law enforcement honors Fryeburg officer who died in line of duty]

Desjardins said all the leg soreness was well worth the climb to honor the life of Fryeburg police officer Nathan Desjardins (no relation), who lost his life in the line of duty June 6 while attempting to save a South Berwick woman from drowning in the Saco River. Two members of the group were unable to summit because of the poor weather conditions but at the top of Katahdin’s Baxter Peak the group paused for a moment of reflection and took a photo with a large poster of Nathan Desjardins. Afterward, all but a handful members of the group made their way across Katahdin Knife’s Edge with swirling 50 mph gusts to Pamola Peak before descending down the Helon Taylor Trail, the others descended back down Baxter Peak, said John Desjardins.

“The hike was an incredibly powerful experience because Nathan died so recently it really put a face to why we were out there,” John Desjardins said. “I read in Nathan’s obituary that he was an avid outdoorsmen and he loved to climb Katahdin, so it really made it that much more personal.”

Cops on Top is part of a national celebration to honor law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty by having members of municipal police departments come together and summit the highest mountain in their state. According to John Desjardins, Kittery Police Chief Jim Soucy brought the idea to participate in Cops on Top to the department from his time working in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he participated in several climbs up Mount Washington. Desjardins said the hike served as a huge morale boost for the department.

“We had an incredible hike, even though we were battling the weather all day,” Desjardins said. “I know a lot of our guys really want to do this again next year to make this into an annual celebration in Maine.”

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