Jorge Maria LJI Reporter
The results of the Quebec Coroner’s investigation have left the mayor of the Municipality of Pontiac (MoP) with a lot of unanswered questions.
In the early morning hours of April 20, 2019, Lortie Séguin’s car fell into a collapsed culvert and overturned.
“This is an accidental preventable death,” the report concluded.
After the report’s initial release, as reported in The Equity, Mayor Joanne Labadie declined to comment until she followed up and sought clarification on specific details in the report. Reached for comment this week, she said she is seeking more information from the coroner and has initiated an internal investigation. The details of the two 911 phone calls that evening are not contained within the report, so she has asked the coroner to provide those transcripts.
It is integral to the internal investigation, she believes, because there was a communication breakdown on that early morning. First responders were not dispatched, in part because the severity of the situation was not understood or communicated correctly. Labadie hopes the transcripts will shed light on what happened during that crucial period between approximately 2:30 a.m., when the first call was placed, and a little after 3:30 a.m. when the second emergency call was placed.
Another issue detailed in the report was the delay in dispatching public works to the affected location. Labadie stressed that in an emergency such as this one, first responders should be dispatched immediately, regardless of the situation and that public works employees are not first responders.
In that regard, soon after Seguin’s accident, the municipality worked in coordination with the police and public works to develop a plan to address what went wrong and ensure it could not happen again. One such procedure is that, regardless of the severity of the situation, in a state-of-emergency, firefighters are dispatched for all emergency calls.
In her discussion with The Equity, Labadie stressed that public works employees are not first responders. The constraints of collective agreements can hinder an immediate response. She noted there had been three days of severe weather and flooding; many on the public works team worked 12 to 14 hour days. Public works employees have the right to refuse over time and it is likely that many of them were exhausted and didn’t answer the early morning call for this reason.
Labadie also wants clarification on why first responders weren’t dispatched immediately that evening rather than more than an hour after the initial call.
No matter the results of the internal investigation, “it’s a loss of life of someone who is very treasured by the community, a family has lost their mother. And I’m deeply saddened by that. There, are no words and there’s nothing we can do in this investigation that’s going to change any of that,” Labadie said.