January 27, 2009
The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER, B.C. — Firefighters who rushed to Vancouver's airport in the minutes after Robert Dziekanski was stunned by an RCMP Taser found a pale, unresponsive man face down in handcuffs as officers stood metres away doing nothing, a public inquiry into the man's death heard Tuesday.
Richmond Fire Department Capt. Kirby Graeme said when he arrived in the early morning of Oct. 14, 2007, the officers weren't helping or monitoring Dziekanski, and at one point even refused to remove the man's handcuffs so he could be properly assessed.
Minutes earlier, the same four Mounties had confronted Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who had been throwing furniture around in the airport's international arrivals area.
"To see a patient face down, handcuffed and not being tended to in some way, shape or form, I thought, 'Something's not right here,"' said Graeme, a firefighter with more than two decades of experience.
"I saw it being unprofessional."
Graeme was asked by Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer for Dziekanski's mother, if he considered whether the officers "were obstructing your efforts to be able to help this man?"
"Yes," replied Graeme.
Graeme said Dziekanski was laying on his face with his head turned to one side, and had not been placed in a first-aid position known as "recovery position."
An officer told him that Dziekanski had been monitored, but Graeme said by the time his crew arrived at the airport, nearly 20 minutes after Dziekanski had been stunned, he had no pulse and appeared to be already dead.
It wasn't until paramedics arrived shortly after that officers finally removed the handcuffs.
Dziekanski still had no pulse and did not have the vital signs required to use an automatic defibrillator. A paramedic told Graeme there may be a faint breath, but Graeme said that turned out to be incorrect.
Paramedics and firefighters performed chest compressions for more than 20 minutes before Dziekanski was declared dead, said Graeme.
Helen Roberts, a lawyer for the federal government, suggested to Graeme that RCMP officers were in fact monitoring Dziekanski before firefighters arrived and he was alive.
Roberts said that would explain why the officers weren't giving Dziekanski medical attention.
"Nobody was on the patient when we got there, and to me personally that's how you monitor a patient, you don't monitor them standing back five or 10 or 15 metres away," responded Graeme.
"If he'd been monitored correctly, someone still would have been there and they would not have been leaving him face down."
Graeme also said the airport's own firefighters, which he estimated to be based less than a kilometre away from where Dziekanski was stunned, were not called.
He said that team is typically the first to respond to medical emergencies at the airport, and would have been able to reach the scene much faster than his team from the fire hall, which is located four kilometres away.
"They were not there, which actually surprised me," he said. "Every other medical assignment that I've been sent to (at the airport), they're always there, and they're always there first."
It's not clear why that team was not called.
Graeme was later asked by Kosteckyj if he had spoken with the airport's emergency response team since October 2007.
"Has it been conveyed to you that there's been a high level of frustration at not being involved in this matter?" asked Kosteckyj.
"Yes," replied Graeme.
Graeme was expected to continue cross-examination on Wednesday.
Kosteckyj said he was glad Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, wasn't in the courtroom to hear Graeme's account.
"I think that will be absolutely devastating to my client when she hears that evidence," Kosteckyj told reporters after testimony wrapped up for the day.
"You would have expected when a person was down, he's being constantly monitored, and that did not appear to be the case."
The inquiry, which opened last week, is trying to get a full accounting of what happened to Dziekanski prior to his death on the floor of the airport.
It will also examine how agencies responded in the weeks and months that followed.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
January 27, 2009