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August 09, 2011 8:41 am

EDITORIAL: Community mourns death of police officer

Written by Ilene Olson

Powell is one of two grieving Wyoming communities following the recent loss of two law enforcement officers under tragic circumstances.

Powell Police Sgt. Michael Chretien died Wednesday near Butte, Mont., when the camp trailer behind the pickup he was driving began fishtailing on Interstate 90, causing the pickup and the trailer to roll. Although he was wearing his seat belt, Chretien was fatally injured and died at the scene. His wife, Claudette, and their three children suffered minor injuries — physically, at least.

A week earlier, on Thursday, July 28, Converse County Sheriff’s Deputy Bryan Gross of Douglas drowned while attempting to rescue a teenage girl in the swollen Platte River. The girl was rescued by other law enforcement officers, who later realized Gross was missing. His body was discovered July 31.

Gross is survived by his bride of one month. His family, friends and community bade him farewell at his funeral in Douglas on Saturday.

Here in Powell, Chretien’s death is felt keenly by his wife and children, and by his other “family” — his fellow police officers, who must not only deal with their own grief, but also must help take up the slack left by his absence.

The heartbreaking deaths of both men left their families and communities searching for comfort and served as reminders of the important roles law enforcement officers play within their communities.

They work long hours, often under trying circumstances and frequently for wages that don’t compensate them adequately. And sometimes — as Gross’ death illustrates — they put their lives on the line.

In October 2007, Chretien helped save the life of Jason Ascheman of Billings by helping pull the unconscious man out of the then burning Super 8 Motel in Powell moments before flames burst through that entrance.

Many law enforcement officers will tell you they chose their careers because they wanted to serve their communities — to make a difference.

Chretien made a difference — and his death leaves a hole in the community.

Our hats are off to the Powell police officers and emergency medical technicians from Powell Valley Hospital who drove up to Butte to bring Claudette and the children home. It is good to know they didn’t have to make that difficult journey alone.

Others who would like to help can donate to an account set up at Wells Fargo Bank.

Now it’s our turn to make a difference for the Chretien family.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link August 28, 2011 7:35 pm posted by Susan Chretien

    We would like to use this venue to personally thank the community of Powell for the outpouring of love and support following our son's untimely death. We were completely overwhelmed by the response to this wonderful town that our son and his family had called "home" for less than four years. Please accept our most heartfelt thanks. Susan and George Chretien, McDonough,GA.

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