RCMP officer missing in earthquake aftermath

January 20, 2010
An RCMP officer from the Maritimes is one of two Canadian police officers still missing in Haiti in the aftermath of Tuesday's massive earthquake.

An RCMP officer from the Maritimes is one of two Canadian police officers still missing in Haiti in the aftermath of Tuesday's massive earthquake.

Sgt. Mark Gallagher, based in Nova Scotia, has been in Haiti with the United Nations since July, training and mentoring members of the Haitian police force. He was part of the peacekeeping mission called Project Co-ordination, based in Port-au-Prince.

Gallagher, 50, had lived in Halifax and acted as the RCMP spokesman for Halifax and the New Brunswick cities of Moncton and Bathurst until he left for Haiti. His family is in New Brunswick, where Gallagher is scheduled to resume work with the force when he returns to Canada in April.

Gallagher's wife, Lisa, told The Canadian Press she last spoke to her husband as he was heading to bed, about 30 minutes before the earthquake struck. She has not heard from him since.

According to Gallagher, her husband was based at the United Nations compound in Port-au-Prince and lived in a two-storey apartment building with at least one other RCMP officer.

The other missing officer is Supt. Doug Coates of Ottawa.

As of 2 p.m. AT Wednesday, 80 of the 82 Canadian police officers in Haiti had been located, said RCMP Sgt. Pat Flood, the national media relation's officer in Ottawa.

It's still not clear what happened to the missing officers, she said.

"I'm not sure where they were actually located at the time of the earthquake," Flood said. "We're working with our police and government partners to do everything we can to try to locate them.

"Obviously, our priority is their safety, and the safety and security of all members in mission, and to provide support to their families back here in Canada."

Maintaining communication on the ground in Haiti has been a challenge, she said.

"Telecommunications are very challenging, very difficult. So we're doing what we can to try to locate them and keep the communication open between the police officers who are over there and the RCMP here in Ottawa."

Gallagher, who is bilingual, has been a police officer for 25 years — 12 of those years with the Mounties.

RCMP Sgt. Brigdit Leger, Gallagher's replacement with the RCMP in Nova Scotia, described him as a great guy who wanted to serve on this mission.

"Our hopes and prayers are with Sgt. Gallagher's family. We are hoping for his speedy return to his family and a safe ending to this," Leger said. "We remain positive that he will shortly be rejoined with his friends and family."

New Brunswick RCMP spokeswoman Const. Chantal Farrah says Gallagher was her mentor and an inspiration.

"I've known Mark for quite a few years, and it actually dates back to when I was in university," she said Wednesday. "Back then I did an internship with the RCMP because I wanted to become a police officer and Mark was one of the police officers that mentored me."

Farrah said that from the first time she met Gallagher, she knew she wanted to follow in his footsteps as a communications officer for the RCMP.

"I remember watching him work and providing interviews and informing the community about events that were going on, and I was very interested in that job, and today I am doing that exact job," she said.

Farrah said Gallagher, who worked in Moncton for many years, always cared about his community. She said he coached and was involved with Special Olympics.

(CBC News)

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