On October 19, 2023, representatives of BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) and the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (APBC) gathered at a highway rest area overlooking the misty shores of Kennedy Lake to dedicate a memorial to two paramedics who gave their lives in service exactly thirteen years earlier.
In the pre-dawn hours of October 19, 2010, Tofino paramedics Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka were returning from transferring a patient to Port Alberni when their ambulance veered off a narrow and winding stretch of road. The ambulance went over a small concrete barrier and into Kennedy Lake far below.
Jo-Ann and Ivan had a combined 37 years of experience as paramedics, and Jo-Ann was the Unit Chief of the Tofino ambulance station. Their deaths devastated their communities and deeply affected many at BCEHS, who lost two dedicated and compassionate colleagues and friends.
At the ceremony on October 19, 2023 participants came together to commemorate Jo-Ann and Ivan and dedicate a permanent memorial to them at the Kennedy Lake Rest Area.
In 2018, a small roadside memorial to Jo-Ann and Ivan was moved to the Tofino Ambulance station in anticipation of road work along Highway 4. In 2020, a new memorial boulder was unveiled at the Tofino Ambulance Station on the tenth anniversary of the accident, with plans to relocate the memorial to a permanent location on Highway 4 after road improvements were finished.
With road improvements complete, the boulder is now in its final home overlooking Kennedy Lake, at a rest area where friends and family members of Jo-Ann and Ivan, as well as members of the public, can easily visit.
The ceremony also included the unveiling of a new memorial marker on a Tofino-based ambulance. Jo-Ann and Ivan's names will now be visible on the ambulance as it drives the streets of the community they served.
The event began with a procession led by the BCEHS Provincial Honour Guard and the APBC Ceremonial Unit.
Sandi Ranger, a member of the APBC Ceremonial Unit, also played a lament she wrote specifically for Jo-Ann and Ivan.
BCEHS' Nicholas Mann, Manager of Island Central District, commenced the ceremony by expressing gratitude to Jo-Ann and Ivan, recognizing the families unable to attend, and acknowledging all those who were there. He also delivered a land acknowledgement and introduced Qʷayacnit Hakuum (Natalee Dennis) Manager, Indigenous Health Program (pictured on the left with Amy Poll, Director, Community and Indigenous Programs on the right).
Qʷayacnit Hakuum opened the ceremony in Nuučaanuł. She acknowledged Jo-Ann and Ivan as pillars of her coastal communities. She invited ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ Elder Kaamitḥ (Tla-o-qui-aht Elder Levi Martin) to honour the memorial in a traditional way alongside Stuart Myers, Regional Vice President 1 North, Indigenous Cultural Relations Ambulance Paramedics of BC.
Executive Vice President and Chief Ambulance Officer Leanne Heppell and the President of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, Troy Clifford, both spoke to the incredible influence of Jo-Ann and Ivan and acknowledged their gratitude for the two paramedics' commitment to their community, career and the service.
Kaamitḥ offered a ƛaʔuukʷiʔatḥ ciciqʔink (Tla-o-qui-aht prayer) with assistance from Stuart Myers. Kaamitḥ also blessed the memorial when it was first placed in April of 2023.
During Kaamitḥ ciciqʔinkʔaƛ, attendees witnessed two ravens appear overhead. They flew towards the ceremony, dipped and dived in the sky above the attendees before flying back towards the forest. For those present, the connection and feeling between the ravens and the ceremony felt as if Ivan and Jo-Ann had come to witness the remembrance.
Many paramedics from Tofino and other nearby communities attended the ceremony, as did Ivan's stepson.
"It was a somber but wonderful event to reflect and remember," says Paramedic Public Information Brian Twaites, who attended. "It was meaningful to see everyone from BCEHS and APBC come together to honour Jo-Ann and Ivan and their legacy of service."
When the event began, a steady rain was falling over the area. As the ceremony continued, the weather turned and the clouds parted, revealing blue skies and sunshine over Kennedy Lake.