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OPP witness describes tension between rescue teams

laura-kingAug. 28, 2012, Toronto – An Ontario Provincial Police dog handler told the inquiry into the collapse of the Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., Tuesday that there was tension between the two rescue teams at the scene.

August 28, 2013
By Laura King

Aug. 28,
2012, Toronto – An Ontario Provincial Police dog handler told the inquiry into
the collapse of the Algo Centre mall in Elliot Lake, Ont., Tuesday that there
was tension between the two rescue teams at the scene.

Const.
Daniel Bailey, the lead dog handler with the OPP’s UCRT unit, said Tuesday
afternoon that after victims Doloris Perizzolo and Lucie Aylwin had been found,
he wanted to go back into the collapsed building but was prevented from doing
so by HUSAR’s Mike McCallion. 

“I knew
that my job wasn’t complete yet,” Bailey said. “So at that point I went to
return back to the scene that I had been [at] since Day 1.”

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Bailey
said McCallion had watched him enter and exit the collapse zone numerous times. 

“And as I
went to go back to the scene he basically stepped in front of me and put his
finger out and said ‘Where do you think you’re going?’ And I said to him at
that point ‘I am going back into the scene to confirm where my dog indicated on
the victim and also to determine . . . if there’s any other further searching
we need to do to look for any possible victims or property.

“And he
said to me, ‘Unless you have a camera around your neck you’re not going in there.’ ”

Bailey
said he told McCallion – “very calmly” – that because there were two bodies
inside the collapse zone the operation was a police investigation, “and right
now you are obstructing me in the lawful execution of my duty to go back to the
scene.’

"I am
asking you right now to please step aside so I can go back in and continue my
job.’ That’s what the confrontation was.”

Both men
then agreed to report the altercation to their supervisors. Bailey said he told
OPP Supt. Jeff Edwards of the conversation with McCallion and was advised that
McCallion had been removed from the scene.

The
inquiry heard last week that there was confusion among OPP members at the scene
of the mall collapse about which agency was in charge of the rescue, and that
the OPP’s incident command system did not mesh with the system used by the
Elliot Lake Fire Department.

Elliot
Lake Fire Chief Paul Officer has testified that he was the overall incident
commander and HUSAR’s Bill Neadles was the IC for the rescue sector. Two OPP
officers have said they thought their superiors were in charge of the rescue.

HUSAR’s McCallion
and Neadles are scheduled to testify Sept. 3 and 10 respectively.

Bailey
also told the inquiry Tuesday that the radios used by the OPP and HUSAR (which
is also knows as TaskForce-3) could not communicate with each other.

“. . .
the problem we had was that the TF-3 was on their radios, the OPP was on their
radios, the two radios didn’t marry up, so we didn’t hear their conversations.
They didn’t hear our conversations.”

Other
witnesses have also testified that communication at the scene was an issue.
Commissioner Paul Belanger asked Bailey the end of Tuesday’s testimony if a
common frequency for responders would be a good idea.

“It’s a
frequent problem I recall reading about,” Belanger said. “involving other
municipal forces with fire. They are not on the same frequency. Police don’t
operate on the same frequency as fire people . . . “

Belanger
said the commission could make a recommendation about a common frequency.

Bailey also told the inquiry Tuesday that some firefighters posed for “trophy” photos at the scene before the two bodies had been removed. Bailey also said he had heard the pictures were posted on Facebook, although he did not see the photos and could not verify that any such photos were posted to the social media site.

“I did observe various people taking pictures, various firefighters taking pictures . . . and when the pictures were being taken there were still people inside the collapsed structure,” he said.

“I was kind of appalled . . . ”

Wednesday morning, Bailey said he saw a firefighter holding up a smartphone and taking vertical and horizontal photos. He said he was not aware that the Elliot Lake Fire Department and HUSAR team members were tasked to take photos for training purposes.

Several photos taken by the Elliot Lake Fire Department were entered as exhibits Wednesday morning. Bailey said none of the photos was a trophy photo.