Thursday, March 19, 2009

Delayed 911 rsponse may have caused death

Police in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada admitted yesterday their slow response to a 911 call on a cold December night may have cost Jonathan Guitard his life.

"We failed to provide adequate attention and care to Mr. Guitard, and in this case it was life-saving aid," police chief Jamie Graham said in a media briefing yesterday. "Our lack of immediate attention to him may have contributed to his death."

Guitard died Dec. 13, more than four hours after a security guard found him unconscious.

Graham said the initial call came in at 4 a.m., but the civilian complaint-taker on duty at the time asked few questions and entered the call in the detachment's priority "queue" as an "unwanted" person. A designation of "man down" dispatcher jargon for an urgent medical emergency would have prompted an immediate response, he said.

"Normally a call like that would be treated as a high priority," Graham said.

A supervisor went to the reported location around 5 a.m., but despite coming within "50 feet" of the location, was unable to find Guitard and returned to the station. Chief Graham said the initial search was hampered by the complaint-taker's sketchy information.

The security guard called police again when he came across Guitard around 6:30 a.m. He was rushed to hospital by ambulance but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Graham said yesterday's statement was prompted by the findings of an autopsy report on Mr. Guitard's death that was released last Thursday. Temperatures in Victoria were well below freezing on the night in question. The department has launched an internal investigation to determine whether any criminal or procedural negligence contributed to Guitard's death.

Chief Graham said he has called Guitard's mother to offer the department's apologies and sympathies. A member of the police department was also sent to Montreal to speak with her personally. (info from the Globe and Mail)

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