Toronto Star

OPP officer driven to return to duty

A high-impact road collision cost motorcycli­st his leg and left him fighting for his life


Michelle Tucker has a special attachment to a tiny feather she keeps in a locket on a chain around her neck.

It is a constant reminder of the day in June when a Canada goose nearly killed her husband Peter Tucker, 42, an Ontario Provincial Police motorcycle officer and father of four.

Michelle explained that doctors plucked feathers from Tucker’s lung some days after the freak accident.

The crash left him fighting for his life and he eventually lost his left leg above the knee. He requires further surgery on his right knee.

“(Doctors) had done a scope and had taken goose feather out of his lungs,” she said of the man who was her high school sweetheart.

It has been a struggle for Tucker, recovering from almost two weeks in an induced coma, a head injury, a lost limb and other complicati­ons, including a fractured larynx, but the 20-year OPP veteran is back home now in St. Catharines.

He is getting used to his waterproof, computeriz­ed prosthetic leg and looking down the road to the day he returns to the job. “It’s just a setback, I’m not down.” said Tucker, who is determined to live a normal life.

“I have no intention of turning this into a nine-year injury. I want to work . . . I want to be a policeman.”

Tucker has no memory of the accident on June 26 when he and several other motorcycle officers were performing VIP training along Hwy. 400 near the Hwy. 11 split.

All he knows of that fateful moment is what he’s been told by his wife and other officers on duty.

“I was helping to teach a VIP escort course for the Pan Am Games. There were about 15 of us in total. I don’t remember anything. I have a good understand­ing of what happened because my wife and friends have filled me in. In fact, I don’t remember two or three days prior to the accident,” Tucker told the Star.

The best anyone can figure is that the noise of the motorcycle­s spooked the goose, causing it to hit Tucker, a member of the elite Golden Helmets motorcycle precession team, in the head, knocking him cold.

His arms went limp and the pilotless Harley-Davidson slammed into the guardrail, pitching him 29 metres into the grass median still soggy from a previous rain.

“I saw it (the goose) when it was in full flight . . . and then it hit Pete and pretty much exploded on impact,” said Sgt. Lise Grenier, the OPP’s provincial motorcycle co-ordinator, who watched the accident from the lead car she was riding in.

“It was obvious it had knocked him out . . . we just felt so helpless. There was nothing we could do to stop that bike.”

Luckily, the highway was closed for the training operation.

His motorcycle buddies were there in seconds before they even knew who had gone down.

He wasn’t breathing when they turned him over and saw his name tag. That’s when he started spitting out water he inhaled from the ditch.

One of his fellow riders just happened to have in his saddle bags an Israeli bandage — or tourniquet — issued to all OPP officers just days before.

That most likely saved his life by stemming the flow of blood gushing from his mangled left leg. “There were many people who saved me that day. There were five guys I thank all the time: (Consts.) Dave Gray, Freddie Gilmour, Tim Gillingham, Mathew Lawder and Sgt. Grenier,” Tucker said.

“These are all people who care about me and we have been riding together for years.”

Grenier carried his severed leg from the scene in the hopes it could be reattached. It wasn’t meant to be.

Barrie’s Royal Victoria Hospital was just moments away, where a trauma surgeon from Toronto’s Sunnybrook hospital happened to be visiting a friend that day and was instrument­al in preparing him for transfer by ORNGE air ambulance. “I get that I am a very lucky person,” Tucker said.

Indeed, his OPP comrades, friends, neighbours and family have been there for him.

“I’ve got a ton of friends. I didn’t realize how many friends I have,” he said.

Tucker was in a coma for 13 days, during which time his kidneys would shut down, overwhelme­d by the toxins — caused by the injuries — coursing through his body.

He was at Sunnybrook for five weeks with Michelle at his side the entire time. He had six surgeries in10 days, including a skin graft on the back of his right leg.

Tucker, who has lost more than 30 pounds, was in hospital in St. Catharines for another three weeks dealing with his kidneys, which started functionin­g on their own. And now he is facing major surgery on his good leg in February.

“On a separate note, I feel some guilt on my part for putting my wife and kids through so much grief,” Tucker said, fighting back his emotions.

He particular­ly regrets how he used to joke with his wife about not worrying “if they send one cop to the house . . . I’m fine, but if they send two, I’m dead.” They sent two that day. “When I found out that two officers were on the way to my work . . . I know it wasn’t good,” Michelle said, praying she would get to Toronto’s Sunnybrook in time to say “goodbye.”

Tucker’s eldest child, Nicole, 16, has chronicled his accident and the aftermath on video.

“It is heart-wrenching to watch,” Michelle said.

In the meantime, Tucker is home with his family and even travelled to Toronto recently to receive a medal for 20 years of service, which he had to postpone until he got better. He used a walker to assist him, as he does around the house.

Tucker said at first he hated looking at his prosthetic leg, but now “I feel complete and strong when it’s on . . . it gives me my freedom.”

“I just want things to be the way they were, but I know that’s not going to happen. When I get my independen­ce back, I will be happy.”

 ?? RICHARD J. BRENNAN/TORONTO STAR ?? OPP Const. Peter Tucker says that at first he hated looking at his prosthetic leg, but now “I feel complete and strong when it’s on.”
RICHARD J. BRENNAN/TORONTO STAR OPP Const. Peter Tucker says that at first he hated looking at his prosthetic leg, but now “I feel complete and strong when it’s on.”

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