Jackie Deveau was struck by a vehicle while walking on the highway, near Exit 8 in Sydney, around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, not long before he made a 911 call seeking help.
The 54-year-old man was taken to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital where he was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.
Ida LeLievre, Deveau’s sister, said her brother loved life and his family.
“My brother was the type of person who was selfless, he was always giving, he would always see the best in people — he didn’t have a judgmental bone in his body,” she said. “He would always want to help you in any way he could.
“He had such a big personality, he loved his family and friends and made it so whenever he was home, even prior to retirement, there was always a gathering and he thrived on that,” said LeLievre.
Deveau spent 35 years with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served as a peacekeeper in Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait in the early 1990s and also helped with the cleanup of Swissair Flight 111, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Halifax International Airport 0n Sept. 2, 1998.
Deveau was diagnosed with PTSD three years after participating in the Swissair cleanup.
He finished his career as a master warrant officer, retiring last September, prior to moving back to his hometown of Cheticamp from Cold Lake, Alta., in October with his wife of 34 years, Lorna, who he met during his school years.
“He was so happy to be home,” said LeLievre. “He was always so grateful to have his wife by his side through all of this and to be able to come home together and plan the rest of their lives.”
LeLievre said her brother took his commitment to serve in the military as his priority.
“I think today Jackie is being remembered across the country, from coast to coast, and we have signs with those people who helped him and who he helped because we are getting messages, phones calls and emails from hundreds and thousands of people, even people we don’t know.” she said.
“We know that even though he’s not physically here with us, he’s left his mark and that mark will never be erased and it’s going to go on forever,” said LeLievre. “He was loved by everyone.”
Deveau went to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney for treatment for his PTSD last Thursday.
The family does not know what he was doing near the highway on Saturday night.
“Right now we have a lot of questions that we need answers to,” said LeLievre. “We had understood that he was being cared for, we’re not sure exactly what happened.
“This week we will focus on what needs to be focused on, which is celebrating his life, gathering and grieving, and doing what needs to be done,” she said. “Until everything is settled through this week, then we will be looking into what happened and looking for answers.”
The Nova Scotia Health Authority said because of privacy concerns, they cannot answer questions or release details about individuals.
Deveau was a strong supporter of Soldier On, a program for PTSD survivors, said LeLievre.
“We talked about it last week and how he wanted to get more involved so that people would know what programs are out there and what’s available for those with PTSD,” she said.
Moving forward, the family plans to be part of the solution and discussion around PTSD.
“We need to inform people, to educate people, to raise awareness and to scream very loud to all government levels to see what needs to happen to make it so that these people suffering from PTSD are not just statistics anymore.” said LeLievre.
An RCMP traffic analyst was called to the accident scene on Saturday and closed the Highway 125 westbound lane between Exits 7 and 8 until early Sunday morning.
The investigation is ongoing and RCMP are looking to speak with the driver of a grey Volkswagen, which is believed to have struck Deveau.
Despite snow falling in the Sydney area on Saturday into Sunday, RCMP are not calling weather a factor in the incident.
LeLievre is encouraging the person who hit her brother to come forward and take responsibility.
“I think everybody wants that person to come forward because it’s just going to make matters worse for that person,” said LeLievre. “They’re going to have to live with it in one way or another, they killed a man and that’s the bottom line.
“Whether they can live with that the rest of their life, I don’t know, but we have to live with this loss, but my brother’s words would be do the right thing, own it and be prepared for the consequences.”
Anyone with information on the hit and run are asked to call 902-794-5800 or 1-800-803-RCMP (7267). Should you wish to remain anonymous, you can call Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
Visitation for Deveau will be held from 2-4 p.m., and 7-9 p.m. on Friday at Cheticamp Funeral Home. The funeral mass will take place on Saturday at 2 p.m. at St. Peter’s Church in Cheticamp.