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Friday, February 13, 2009

'Office politics' delayed airport medics' response

February 13, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, Canwest News Service

Robert Dziekanski didn't get faster medical aid after he was Tasered by RCMP at the Vancouver International Airport because of "office politics," an inquiry heard Thursday.

In a revealing e-mail exchange, released at the inquiry Thursday, airport employee Heather Staller expressed dismay that her friend who headed the airport's own emergency response wasn't given a chance to save the life of the Polish immigrant, who died after being Tasered.

"Did I mention I hate this stuff. . . office politics," Staller wrote in an e-mail to Andrew Caldwell, the acting supervisor at airport Emergency Response Services on Oct. 14, 2007, the night Dziekanski died.

Staller told the inquiry that Caldwell had minor clashes twice earlier that night with the two airport managers.

The inquiry has heard several witnesses testify they were upset that Dziekanski, who was first Tasered at 1:29 a.m., didn't get medical assistance until the fire department drove to the airport and arrived around 1:42 a. m.

The B.C. Ambulance call was upgraded from a"routine"call to"Code 3 lights and siren" about 1:36 a. m., and both women in charge of airport emergency communications have told the inquiry that a Code 3 response--by airport protocol -- always triggered the dispatch of the airport's own Emergency Response Services, just metres away.

But airport operations officer Carla Hanson testified that when the ambulance call was upgraded to Code 3,she checked with Bob Ginter, the airport response co-ordinator that night, and he told her not to bother calling in ERS.

Hanson said she was so surprised that she asked Ginter to confirm that with Greg Sandbrook, who was the shift supervisor that night. Sandbrook backed Ginter's decision, so Hanson could not dispatch ERS on her own.

On the stand Thursday, Staller confirmed she fully expected ERS to be dispatched and e-mailed Caldwell out of "courtesy" that a crisis was occurring in the international arrivals area, so he should get equipment ready.

"Thanks for the info, thank God . . . I don't expect anything positive out of Bob or Greg," Caldwell says in the e-mail at 1:36 a. m. "Keep me posted . . . thanks for the heads up."

At 1:37 a. m., Staller alerts Caldwell as promised: "Here it comes Code 3." But at 1: 38 a. m., Staller e-mails again: "Stand by . . . there isn't going to be a Code 3 call . . . sorry."

The two e-mail back and forth, discussing their handling of the situation, then Staller says,"Did I mention I hate this stuff . . . office politics. You can't get in trouble for not responding though, it would be on Bob's shoulders, wouldn't it?"

They confer again: "Greg is the one who will wear this. He knew what Bob was doing and did nothing to stop it."

Staller shows in the e-mail exchange, and she confirmed on the stand Thursday, that the ERS first-responders were upset and found it "frustrating" that they weren't given a chance to save Dziekanski's life.

Their e-mail exchange was made public at the inquiry Thursday by the Vancouver Airport Authority, which records all radio, telephone and e-mail exchanges.

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