www.firefightingincanada.com

Headlines News
OPP helicopter caused problems at Elliot Lake scene


August 20, 2013
By Laura King

Aug. 20, 2013 – An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) constable who took aerial photos and videos the of the Elliot Lake mall collapse from an OPP helicopter testified Tuesday that he did not know if anyone told the incident commander he was going to do so.

Aug. 20, 2013 – An Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) constable who took aerial photos and videos the of the Elliot Lake mall collapse from an OPP helicopter testified Tuesday that he did not know if anyone told the incident commander he was going to do so.

OPP Const. Dale Burns said under questioning by lawyer John Saunders, who is representing the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) at the inquiry, that he was told by his superiors to record the scene.

Testimony earlier Tuesday by Elliot Lake Fire Capt. John Thomas indicated that the rotor wash from the helicopter caused debris in the collapsed mall to sway, and put firefighters at risk while they were searching for victims in the Algo Centre.

Thomas also testified that no one from the Elliot Lake Fire Department – including Fire Chief Paul Officer, who was the incident commander – had been told that the OPP was sending its helicopter over the scene.

Const. Burns said he reported solely to Insp. Percy Jollymore of the East Algoma OPP, and did not know if Jollymore had let other responders know that the OPP was sending its photographer up to take pictures.

Burns said that during the flight, the pilots were notified that the rotor wash was causing a beam inside the building to sway precariously, and the helicopter immediately left the scene.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Elliot Lake firefighter Darren Connors, who was in the collapsed mall with Capt. Thomas searching for victims, began his testimony, which focused primarily on his training, including IMS, search and rescue, confined space, mock exercises, tabletop sessions and myriad other courses.

Connors, who is also a captain, was camping when the collapse occurred but returned to town and to the fire hall, took Pumper 2 and responded to the mall at about 1458. Fire Chief Officer was already on the scene.

Connors entered the mall to do search and rescue, and saw the collapsed area, including a bent beam.

“There was a lot of movement in there,” he said.

“We tried to remove anything we could. We checked the Ford Escape that was in there.”

When Connors was on the debris pile, he said he could hear lots of noises – communications, and the echo of the first responders talking.

Connors took over from Capt. Thomas, who had been communicating with what he thought to be a victim. Thomas testified earlier that he had heard sounds in response to his shouts to determine if there were people in the collapsed building.

Firefighters and paramedics had already found Doloris Perizzolo and determined that she had no vital signs; firefighters believed they were communicating with a second person trapped in the rubble. (For earlier testimony, see today’s Editor’s blog.)

Connors said he didn’t hear actual words – only muffled sounds – but believed someone was trying to communicate with him.

“It felt as though I was getting a response in relation to my question.”

Asked by commission counsel if the communication got weaker or stopped, Connors said it stopped but he couldn’t say how long it had lasted. Connors later said he had asked for help dealing with the communication but couldn’t remember whether he stopped asking the questions because he wasn’t getting a response, or had been tasked with other things.

Connors is back on the stand Wednesday morning, after which Officer testifies.