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Father of injured girl seeking answers from Ornge

January 13, 2014  By The Toronto Star

Jan. 13, 2014, Ottawa - As his daughter Celeste lay bleeding internally from serious injuries suffered in a snowmobile accident, Michael Arthur thought an ORNGE air ambulance was on its way to speed her from cottage country to a Toronto hospital.

But the helicopter never came that Jan. 2 afternoon, even as medical
staff in a Huntsville hospital said she needed immediate transport.

And the helicopter? That same afternoon, and in the same area, an ORNGE helicopter was forced to
abort its flight

to pick up a patient after a cockpit window fell out.

Now the Mississauga father is seeking answers about the breakdown,
which appears to have delayed his 5-year-old daughter’s transport to the
Hospital for Sick Children and added to the family’s distress on a
“harrowing” day.


“Why can’t you get an air ambulance that works,” Arthur told the Star.

“If you’re using an air ambulance, it’s generally going to be time-sensitive. You need it to work,” he said.

“As an emergency operation it needs to be fail-proof and parameters put in place to ensure it. Lives can’t be put to chance.”


previously reported by the Star, the ORNGE AgustaWestland AW139 helicopter was preparing for landing
to pick up a patient in cottage country when the right side cockpit
window popped out over a frozen lake. The pilots diverted to Muskoka

The cockpit door assembly, which includes the window, was later
replaced by a maintenance engineer and the aircraft was flown back to

Citing patient confidentiality, ORNGE spokesman James MacDonald was
unable to confirm whether the helicopter in question was on its way to
pick up the young girl.

However, the ORNGE helicopter was responding to a call in the Dorset
area, the very spot where the young girl had been injured during a
snowmobile outing with her dad and friends at a cottage east of the

Celeste had been riding with her dad when the sled skidded on an icy
patch and ran into a tree. Arthur was thrown off the machine by the
force of the collision. His daughter, lying in the snow, cried out,
“Daddy, we’ve been in an accident.”

“I picked her up. . . . She started throwing up; her eyes started
rolling in the back in her head. I just started freaking out,” Arthur

Together with his friend, they got her back to the cottage, where they
called 911. That sparked a response by ambulance, the Ontario
Provincial Police and the local fire department.

A paramedic at the scene told his friend that a helicopter had been
dispatched to pick her up. Celeste was loaded into the land ambulance
for transport to the landing site, about 10 minutes away. Arthur rode
with his daughter while a friend took his car over because they weren’t
certain whether the father would be allowed to travel to Toronto in the
helicopter as well.

“When they got her in the ambulance, they’re like, ‘OK, we’re going to meet the chopper,’ ” Arthur said.

But a short time later his friend, waiting at the landing site, called
to ask where they were. Arthur asked the paramedics, who responded,
“No, it’s been changed. Now we’re driving to the Huntsville hospital.”

They got to the Huntsville hospital around 4 p.m., more than an hour
after the accident, Arthur estimates. Medical staff there did a scan
that revealed the extent of her internal injuries.

“They pretty much said, ‘We need to get her to Sick Kids. . . . we
don’t have the facilities here for her. There’s quite a bit of bleeding
in her abdomen and looks like there is some liver damage,” Arthur said.

“They indicated the immediacy with which they needed to get her there,” he said.

At that point, it appeared that going by air was still an option.

“Once we were in Huntsville, I knew we were supposed to take the air
ambulance or a plane. They mentioned those two. Or drive. I’m like, ‘I
hope we’re not driving.’ I remember saying that,” Arthur said.

But then word came that because of an “issue” with the helicopter,
they would have to drive to Toronto. That meant a further delay, Arthur
says, as arrangements were made to have both a doctor and nurse
accompany the young girl.

The emergency run by ambulance to Sick Kids took about three hours; it
arrived around 9:30 p.m. The young girl spent a week in hospital,
including 72 hours in the intensive care unit. She returned home on
Thursday night after what doctors told the family was an amazing
recovery though she faces several months of recuperation.

With their daughter safely home, Arthur is now hoping no other family is left in a similar lurch in future.

“There’s obviously going to be other injuries in more remote places
and you need to make sure those vehicles are . . . not problematic,”
Arthur said.

“I know ORNGE has gone through enough with the
, but let’s not have it move to another form where we’re looking at mechanical failures,” he said.


While MacDonald was unable to comment on the specifics of the Jan. 2
incident, he did say that ORNGE staff worked with the hospital to ensure
the patient was transported to a trauma centre “as quickly as possible
under the circumstances.

“Any time an ORNGE aircraft is unable to complete a transport for any
reason, it causes understandable concern for the family of the patient,
and we are mindful of this,” he told the Star.

He said there are times when bad weather or mechanical issues make it
impossible for ORNGE aircraft to transport a patient. When that happens,
ORNGE works with ambulance dispatchers to make alternate arrangements
for the patient to be transported from the scene to a nearby hospital by

“We will then work with the sending hospital to help facilitate the
safest, fastest possible means of transportation for the patient, which
may include ORNGE aircraft or land

transport,” MacDonald said.


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