At the scene, paramedics let him sit with his wife in the back of the ambulance.
“They weren’t able to save her … it was hard. She looked pretty much the same but one of her front teeth was chipped,” he says.
“I don’t know how long I was in there for. I can picture that like it just happened yesterday.”
Jason, a Leading Senior Constable in Geelong, was still reeling from Samantha’s death when he sat down for a meal and a drink with 17 other cops, brought together by Victoria Police Legacy.
“It’s very hard when you lose someone, you feel like something is wrong with you. It’s hard to get out into society and they broke those barriers down,” he says.
“There were some horrifying tragic stories that I heard that day and it put everything in perspective.”
Samantha was spontaneous, he says. She was outgoing and full of life.
“We got along like a house on fire. I come from a background around a bit of family violence but her family taught me love, taught me empathy, taught me compassion. So I got a lot out of our short 10½ years together.
“The day that I attended that scene and saw her in the back of the ambulance – and I have seen a lot of bodies, I’ve lost count – nothing prepares you for that. When it hits you at home with your family, nothing prepares you for that.”
But Legacy – a not-for-profit charitable organisation which helps police families dealing with the loss of a love one – has helped Jason through his toughest moments.
“We had the first ‘Blokes Day’ in 2012 and we just sat around and talked,” he says.
“It’s a common ground we can sort of be united in grief. We don’t all sit there and cry, we sit there and be human and live and go to the footy and the cricket.”
Legacy was established in 1980 after the death of father and husband Detective Senior Constable Robert Lane, who was shot while trying to speak to a suspect about a stolen car on the NSW border.
It is now celebrating its 40th anniversary.
The organisation now works with 992 adults and 113 young people, says board member Senior Sergeant Kate O’Neill, who has worked for many years with children who have lost a parent who was a police officer.
“Some of our children lost their parents as newborns so they don’t know them or have their own memories so we can share our memories with them and they’ll always know that they’re part of our family,” she says.
“It’s just about being there so Victoria Police is always part of their lives.”
About 90 per cent of Victoria Police employees give a percentage of their fortnightly pay to the organisation, which provides education grants for children and young people, organises events such as regional lunches and kids camps, help with everyday bills for those who are struggling and arranges counselling.
It’s also helped teenagers such as Toby Lane, whose father Chief Inspector Murray Lane died several years ago from cancer.
The 19-year-old recently spent part of his gap year in North Carolina at a sports camp through a youth grant from Legacy.
“They have been great to us, to the family. It’s been huge for my mum, she’s been a bit lonely obviously and they have been there to help her out, help us out and are really supportive of us.”
Jason, who has since remarried, still regularly attends Legacy events.
For Senior Sergeant O’Neill, the experience of working with Legacy for eleven years has changed the way she looks at grief and loss.
“The Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton says if Victoria Police had a heart, it’s Police Legacy. I think that’s the best way it sums it up.”
Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.