By Jessica Lovell
Between 5,000 and 6,000 people are expected to attend the funeral of a Guelph Police officer, Const. Jennifer Kovach, who died in a traffic accident while on duty.
“The outpouring from our community, from our business leaders and from our municipal leaders has simply been wonderful,” said Guelph Police Chief Bryan Larkin of the support for both the family and the police service in the wake of the young officer’s death. “It’s a dark time for the Guelph Police Service, it’s a dark time for the community, but often in these times of darkness and sadness, communities unite,” Larkin told media at a news conference to announce the details of the public funeral.
Representatives from police and emergency services across the province are expected to attend the event in celebration of the 26-year-old officer who died in the early morning of March 14 after her cruiser collided with a transit bus on Imperial Road.
“On Thursday, we will turn a city facility into a place of celebration and a place of sanctuary,” said Larkin.
The funeral will be held at the Sleeman Centre at 11:30 a.m., following a motorcade from the funeral home and a traditional police processional and parade to the centre from Guelph Police headquarters downtown.
But mourners will begin gathering today (March 19) for the public visitation in the Hart Chapel at Gilbert MacIntyre & Son Funeral Home, 1099 Gordon St.
“There will be enhanced pro-active police presence in the area to assist with the large crowds,” said Larkin, warning that community members should expect some increased traffic around the funeral home.
He also warned that there may be some lineups due to the large number of people expected to come to pay their respects.
The visitation will go from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. today and on Wednesday. Overflow parking will be provided at the Salvation Army Citadel.
Before the funeral on Thursday morning, “the community can anticipate some significant road closures and some significant traffic disruption, particularly in the Gordon Street corridor,” said Larkin. There will also be road closures around Farquhar and Fountain streets, where staging is to take place for the processional.
The motorcade route is expected to head north on Gordon from the funeral home to Fountain Street, where it will pass by police headquarters and connect with the processional. The parade will then continue north on Wyndham to Woolwich and around to Macdonell.
Larkin encouraged people to carpool, as parking will likely be hard to find. But he also praised the University of Guelph, which he said will provide parking for visiting police officers attending the funeral. A shuttle service will take officers and other emergency service personnel from the campus to the Sleeman Centre, he said.
While all this is going on, Larkin said, police service to the community will continue with extra help coming from Waterloo Regional Police Service.
Larkin could not give an estimate of how many police from other services were expected to attend the ceremony, but said a crowd of 5,000 to 6,000 is anticipated at the funeral. If the Sleeman Centre cannot accommodate everyone, there will be overflow provided across the street at the River Run Centre, he said.
The growing memorial at the accident site on Imperial Road, and the flowers and notes that have been received at the police station, show recognition of the work that police do and are evidence of the impact Const. Kovach had on the community, said Larkin.
“People realize the great service that Jennifer provided to the city,” he said.
Larkin said the investigation into the traffic accident is still ongoing, but declined to give further details about what may have caused the collision.
“At the right time, we will come back with more answers to the community about the collision,” he said. “Over the next couple of days, the focus is around Jennifer Kovach and celebrating her life.”