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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Airport response team never alerted

February 18, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, The Province

An airport manager said yesterday that he didn't call in the airport's own first responders to save Robert Dziekanski's life because he was concerned a plane could crash or a fire could break out.

Robert Ginter, who was the Airport Response Co-ordinator on Oct. 14, 2007, the night Dziekanski was Tasered by RCMP and died, admitted that he went against airport protocol when he did not dispatch the Emergency Response Services (ERS) from a fire hall at the airport.

Ginter said he didn't want to have all airport staff busy at one site.

We did not have anybody to respond if there was any potential incident . . . if there was to be another medical call, a fire or an aircraft incident," said Ginter, insisting his "role was to keep a view of the larger picture . . . don't undermine the safety and security of the airport."

Ginter said that he went to the international arrivals area, where he saw Dziekanski Tasered and restrained on the ground by four RCMP officers, but thought his job was to check for damaged furniture, glass or computers.

"It was the most violent thing I've ever seen in my life," he said in his testimony before the Braidwood inquiry into Dziekanski's death and Taser use.

Ginter said Dziekanski "was under the care and control of the RCMP" and not his responsibility.

He denied assertions that an earlier confrontation with ERS led him to hold them back from responding to Dziekanski.

Earlier that night, Ginter had asked that the ERS repair a pothole on a runway. But ERS supervisor Andrew Caldwell refused, saying he didn't want to assign a crew to road repairs in case they were required for a medical call.

Richmond Fire Capt. Kirby Graeme testified earlier that Dziekanski was lifeless by the time firefighters arrived and that in 23 years of responding to calls at the airport, he'd never arrived at a scene before the airport's own ERS.

Dziekanski, a new immigrant to Canada from Poland, had spent 24 hours travelling and 10 hours in the Vancouver airport. He became distraught and threw furniture.

Outside the inquiry yesterday, Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, said it was "very, very hard" for her to listen in the courtroom.

"He ignores my Robert," said Cisowski, adding that Ginter appeared to "only care" about airport property. "If everybody had just done their job, Robert would be alive today . . . I miss him so much."

Earlier yesterday, security guard Trevor Enchelmaier testified that he found a stapler only after discussions with RCMP on the scene who claimed Dziekanski wielded a stapler as a weapon.

"The RCMP and [airport] operations had mentioned he had something in his hand . . . and we were trying to work out what it was and I found the stapler," Enchelmaier agreed he told police that night.

Enchelmaier also watched the Pritchard video where he appears to stand on Dziekanski's legs, but explained: "I wasn't assisting police, I was helping Mr. Dziekanski."

He said he was concerned Dziekanski might injure his thrashing legs.

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