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Coroner finds organizational problems in death of 24-year-old during Montreal marathon

MONTREAL — A Quebec coroner who looked into the death last year of a 24-year-old runner in a Montreal half-marathon is raising several issues with communication and organization at the event.

Patrick Neely died last Sept. 22 after collapsing just before the finish line at the race, part of the International Oasis Rock ‘N’ Roll Montreal Marathon.

The report Monday noted numerous shortcomings — a serious lack of volunteers, a lengthy delay of nearly 10 minutes for paramedics to arrive after police called, and a failure to transport Neely to the hospital best equipped to deal with cardiac arrest patients.

Neely, an engineer from Beaconsfield, Que., died the same evening of multiple organ failure in what was ruled a natural death. Coroner Gehane Kamel noted Neely had a congenital heart condition that was known to his physicians, but it had been stable for years.

Kamel wrote that knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation should be a requirement for Montreal police officers, noting the officer who first tended to Neely happened to know the technique because of experience with a previous police force.

And while there were 52 defibrillators on site during the race — both stationary and mobile — there wasn’t one available where Neely collapsed, and Montreal police cars aren’t equipped with defibrillators.

“Access to a defibrillator would have been essential and should have been administered within five minutes of Mr. Neely’s collapse,” Kamel wrote. “We believe that rapid administration of a defibrillator would have contributed to saving his life.”

With the help of a bystander who was a nurse, the officer attempted to resuscitate Neely, but she knew that without a defibrillator time was short.

Her initial call to paramedics inside a nearby mobile medical clinic was not answered. Finally a fellow officer ran to the nearest fire hall for help, and firefighters arrived two minutes before the paramedics. 

Kamel noted that Neely was taken to the nearest hospital instead of one of seven in Montreal that offered hemodynamic treatment, a procedure which would have greatly improved chances of survival.

From an organizational standpoint, the marathon was well short of volunteers — only 60 out of 200 that had been needed for the race.

“It is Montreal police officers who had to offset this lack of manpower by adding more than 200 police officers to those already planned and playing a role which was not originally intended for them,” Kamel wrote.

Confronted by the logistical problems, the race director Dominique Piche stepped down in the days after the event.

Kamel recommended that the city not allow such events to go forward in the future if organizers are unable to meet strict guidelines.

Other recommendations include making defibrillator locations along the route widely known and Health Department instructions to transport cardiac patients to a hospital that offers hemodynamic services.

On Monday, Eddy Afram, chief executive of the marathon, reiterated his sympathies to Neely’s family in a statement and said the coroner’s report had been reviewed.

“We have discussed and will continue to discuss with the City of Montreal, police, and emergency responders measures to mutually ensure the highest safety standards for any future editions of the marathon,” Afram said.  

“The health and safety of runners, employees and volunteers remains the highest priority of the marathon.”

Police and paramedic services were not immediately available to comment. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 29, 2020.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press



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Edmonton Oilers online 50/50 raffle sells out with record-setting $5.7M pot

EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers online 50/50 raffle has hit another record and had to close early after it reached the server provider’s maximum allowable tickets sales.

The Oilers Entertainment Group says the final estimated jackpot Wednesday is $5.4 million, with the lucky winner taking home $2.7 million.

The other half of the funds raised from the raffle will go to the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.

Monday night’s raffle for Game 2 of the Oilers-Blackhawks series shamed the previous record for the largest sports raffle as the pot surpassed $3.2 million.

The previous record was held by Toronto Raptors fans when the 50/50 raffle reached $2 million during the 2019 NBA Finals, the year the team won the championship.

For Game 4, ticket sales are to open at 9 a.m. MT on Friday and Oilers Entertainment Group says its online 50/50 service provider is working to address the maximum ticket issue before that game.

“The passion and support for the 50/50 raffle has been exceptional and is yet another concrete example of Oilers fans’ commitment to their community,” the company said in a statement.

“You should expect improvements in the very immediate future as we chase yet another 50/50 record.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2020

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Veteran Canadian Press broadcast journalist Peter Ray dies at age 71

TORONTO — Peter Rakobowchuk, a journalist with Canada’s national news agency whose high energy delivery was instantly recognizable to decades of listeners, has died.

More widely known by his radio moniker Peter Ray — a supervisor early on told him it sounded smoother — the irrepressible Rakobowchuk had been undergoing chemotherapy for liver cancer. He was 71.

“He had such a distinctive voice that no name was required,” said Rose Kingdon, broadcast director at The Canadian Press.

In fact, according to those who were there, guests at his wedding to his wife Pat Enborg three decades ago clamoured for him to do his famous sign off when he got up to respond to the roasts.

“Do the sign-off, do the sign-off,” they chanted when he picked up the microphone. To much applause, Rakobowchuk boomed: “Peter Ray, Montreal.”

Born in Verdun, Que., Rakobowchuk began his career as a DJ with various private radio outlets, known at one point as “Rockin’ Peter Ray.” In February 1979, he joined Broadcast News, a subsidiary of The Canadian Press, in Toronto. He transferred to the Ottawa bureau 18 months later, spending four years there before moving to Montreal, where, apart from a six-year stint covering the legislature in Quebec City, he remained.

A fearless reporter, Rakobowchuk covered a wide array of assignments with unbridled enthusiasm. He was there when the Queen signed the Constitution. He was at the Oka crisis. He covered referendums, protests, political leadership races and elections, sometimes racing to events in the “War Wagon,” a 1978 Chevy Malibu, the first car he owned.

He loved the craft, especially when news was breaking, Enborg said on Wednesday.

“He didn’t hesitate at all to be called on to a story as it was developing, and to follow it through to its end — no matter how long it took,” Enborg said. “He loved every minute of it.”

In the early ’90s, Rakobowchuk slipped into a phone booth to file a report on a protest south of Montreal when he began having difficulty. Tear gas, he explained apologetically, as he got his report across between coughing bouts.

Despite the pressure of years of constant deadlines, Rakobowchuk managed to find a puppy-like joy in his work.

“To say he was enthusiastic is a bit of an understatement,” said Nelson Wyatt, a long-time colleague and friend.

During one protest, Rakobowchuk came across looters in a store and jumped right in to shoot video. When voices behind him yelled, “Move!” he responded to the officers poking him in the back with their batons: “In a minute!”

Rakobowchuk was known for asking questions others were reluctant to ask, such as when he tackled then-premier Jean Charest about the curls he had just had shorn, or grilled former premier Robert Bourassa on sovereignty. Despite groans from francophone media, they invariably led their reports with the response.

Despite his willingness to engage pointedly with newsmakers, he was seldom angry or mean.

He did once get under the skin of Bob Gainey, then coach of the Montreal Canadiens, when he cited Enborg as wondering why Gainey was sticking with goalie Carey Price. “Carey Price is a thoroughbred maybe your wife doesn’t recognize it,” Gainey retorted, before adding that she didn’t bake bread very well, either.

Rakobowchuk took great pride in adding print to his journalism skills, and continued working after taking sick leave in 2015 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

He also developed a keen interest and expertise in stories about space exploration.

“His passion and enthusiasm never waned,” said former Montreal bureau chief, Donald McKenzie. “Never was that enthusiasm more pronounced than when he was writing about the space beat.”

One of his greatest joys was getting to go down to Florida to cover the final space shuttle launch in 2011.

“He practically bounced off the ground to be able to go down there and cover it,” Enborg said.

Besides Enborg, Rakobowchuk is survived by his son Alex and daughter Lisa, as well as Giselle, a daughter from a previous marriage. His five siblings predeceased him.

In his final post on Facebook less than a week ago, he urged people to get tested for the coronavirus after his came back negative.

“A great stress reliever,” he said. “Worrying about whether or not you’re positive is not good for your state of mind.”

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the family will be holding a private service Aug. 12 at Collins Clarke MacGillivray White Funeral Home in Pointe-Claire, Que.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 5, 2020.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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Feds look to finalize deal with airlines amid contact-tracing concerns

OTTAWA — As Ottawa and airlines talk about contact tracing, federal officials are trying to sort out how much information companies should provide, and how the data should flow.

Concerns about the level of detail airlines provide have been greatest in British Columbia, where the provincial health officer has lamented a lack of movement from federal officials.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday there could be improvements to the data that airlines provide as part of efforts to trace the potential spread of COVID-19.

A federal government official tells The Canadian Press the issue revolves around information collected for domestic flights, with one of the hurdles being finding an agreement that satisfies all parties involved.

The official wasn’t authorized to speak on the record because efforts are being headed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, which didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The federal health agency already requires airlines to provide information on travellers arriving on international flights who are subject to strict quarantine rules and Tam says there hasn’t been a confirmed case of in-flight transmission.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2020.

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