Signal Fire Requested by Police Kills Boating Survivor

It quickly spread to engulf boat after accident in Canada
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2014 5:56 PM CST
Signal Fire Requested by Police Kills Boating Survivor
Stock image   (Shutterstock)

A fatal boating accident in Canada last year is raising questions about the amount of time it took for authorities to arrive on the scene. But one detail reported by the Toronto Star is especially unsettling: When survivor Rob Dorzek called 911 to get help for himself and his three friends, the dispatcher asked him to light a signal fire on the island where they crashed. He did so, but the fire spread to underbrush and engulfed the boat. Dorzek managed to pull his unconscious girlfriend from the flames, but he could not free the two men still inside. It appears that one of them had already been killed in the crash, but Dorzek heard screams from the other man, 34-year-old Michael Kritz. Both men in the boat died, as did Dorzek's girlfriend, from her crash injuries. Dorzek was the lone survivor.

The boat crashed into the small island on Lake Wanapitei at night, and an autopsy found that driver Matthew Humeniuk, 33, had a BAC over the legal limit. It took confused rescuers an hour after Dorzek's initial call to reach the scene, even though he sent the dispatcher an image of a map from his phone that documented their position. Victims' families say more lives could have been saved with a more efficient response, and the Sudbury coroner's office is expected to decide this month whether to launch an inquest, reports the CBC. Says Kritz's sister of the dispatcher: “It was (June), so dry season. It was windy. (Rob’s) telling her there’s a boat crashed up on the shore full of fuel and she tells him to light a fire. I don’t believe that was a reasonable option.” (More 911 call stories.)

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