People are offering their condolences to the family of 32-year-old Justin Francis, a southern Alberta firefighter that was killed in a dirt-bike incident over the weekend.
Rachel Francis, Justin’s wife, was still processing the tragic loss of her husband while trying to explain to their two kids — three-year-old Kai and 11-month-old Andie — where their dad was on Monday.
“He (Kai) is a little bit sad and he’s a little bit brave but we’re going to be OK — that’s what he told me,” Rachel said. “Before he (Justin) was taken away, Kai got to say goodbye to his daddy and give him a big hug and kiss and tell him he loved him and that he’s going to miss him.”
While the family was on a camping trip near Sundre, Alta., Rachel knew something wasn’t right when Justin didn’t come back from dirt biking.
“My brother in-law and Justin’s sister and the kids and I jumped in the truck and just started driving slowly along the ditches and yelling his name,” she said.
Justin was on his way back to the campsite to get gas for his cousin’s bike that had run out, when something caused him to go off the logging road, through some trees and down an embankment.
Rachel and her family finally found his bike — undamaged — and then saw Justin. His pulse very weak, so they loaded him into their truck and started driving to a nearby town for medical help.
“[We] started CPR and then he came to twice and the third time he didn’t come back,” Rachel said.
At around 2 p.m. on Saturday, emergency responders were called to Highway 584 near the town of Bearberry, in an area west of Sundre.
Justin was transported to the Bearberry Community Centre where he was met by EMS. However, he had sustained traumatic injuries and did not survive.
His family finds peace knowing Justin died doing something he loved.
“So whenever we’re driving, I can just look over and say, ‘You know, that was my son. There was my son right there,'” said Keith Francis, Justin’s dad.
Brent Hartsook, who had known Justin for more than 15 years, said Justin would do anything for anybody and will be deeply missed.
“The first thing that comes to mind is his family — Rachel and his two kids,” Hartsook said. “He definitely touched a lot of lives and he will be very missed, but most of all from his kids who aren’t going to get to know their dad and a wife that’s going to have a very hard time. So our prayers are with them. You’ve got a lot of people that love you Rachel… We’ll miss you Justin.”
Hartsook said Justin was an excellent dirt-bike rider.
View a photo gallery of Justin Francis below:
“He was the life of the party. He was always making jokes… he was always there to make you smile,” Hartsook said. “Once you meet the Francis family, they just kind of take you in and you become family, you become friends, and Justin was very much like that.”
Rachel said she will tell her children all about what a wonderful man their father was.
Flags were lowered at the Bearspaw Fire Station west of Calgary, which is where Justin was based.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Francis’ family.
The RCMP continue to investigate but say they have determined alcohol was not a factor in the crash.