The provincial opposition parties are asking for answers after Ontario’s ORNGE air ambulance service failed to respond to a deadly crash in Stouffville on Wednesday morning.
Richard Ribeiro, a father of a two-year-old child, died following a crash between a dump truck and a cube van around 6:30 a.m. on Bloomington Road East, east of Ninth Line.
York police said the Ford cube van was travelling eastbound on Bloomington when it crossed the centre line and struck a Mack dump truck, which was travelling westbound.
ORNGE’s Toronto-based crew was called out to the scene, but failed to respond. The agency said they were already on the scene of another crash on the QEW, and their second crew was unable to respond because members had not begun their shifts yet. Under Transport Canada rules, they had to delay their start after working overtime.
The driver of the cube van was transported to hospital where he died of his injuries. The driver of the Mack dump truck suffered minor injuries.
At Queen’s Park, the news shook up both the opposition parties and the Liberals on Wednesday afternoon.
“The people of Ontario are counting on our air ambulance service to be there when an emergency happens,” said Conservative MPP Frank Klees, who sits on the committee looking into the ORNGE financial scandal. “You can’t arrange emergency to coincide with the staffing at ORNGE.”
“My confidence is shaken to the core. I’m worried, Mr. Speaker,” said New Democrat MPP France Gelinas, adding that she found it astounding that ORNGE can’t meet its central mandate despite months of scrutiny.
“ORNGE is supposed to be there when they’re called. It’s really hard to fathom. How could it continue to go so wrong?”
“I do think it’s unfortunate that members of this legislature are using this tragedy in a political way,” responded Health Minister Deb Matthews. “It’s tempting that some are jumping to conclusions. I will not do that. I want to know what the facts are, I want to understand what actually happened.”
However, the health minister promised a full investigation when addressing media outside the legislature.
“An incident like this morning reminds us that we have to be ever vigilant,” she said, adding that she already made a phone call to Sunnybrook’s CEO Barry McLellan. “I have asked him to look into this situation. My heart goes out to the family.”
At the scene of the accident, meanwhile, witnesses were astounded by what they heard and saw.
“It was so loud,” a man who lives nearby told CityNews. “It was around 6:35 in the morning. I was downstairs and my wife upstairs. I said ‘did you dump something?’. She said ‘no, something outside’. I said ‘let’s go check it out’, because I live about 500 yards from the happening.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact York police at 866-876-5423 ext. 7704, Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS, leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com, or text your tip by sending TIPYORK and your message to CRIMES (274637).