Victim's parents slam response time

Paramedic, meanwhile, says 30 minutes 'unacceptable' but all too common in Whistler, elsewhere in B.C.

Evidence presented in court and B.C. Ambulance Service dispatch records about the ambulance response time in the 2007 shooting death of Micheal George Boutros appear to conflict. The court record shows it took 30 minutes for paramedics to arrive in Whistler's Village Square, while a B.C. Ambulance official this week said records show it took only 10 minutes.

However, presuming the evidence presented during the trial of Shane Robert Joseph Richard is correct, Boutros' parents are upset that it took a half hour for an ambulance to reach their son on the night he died, and wonder whether a faster response might have saved his life.

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"I'm ashamed at the medical service," May Boutros said outside the courtroom, where Richard was on trial for the murder.

A B.C. Supreme Court jury last Thursday (Jan. 29) found Richard guilty of second-degree murder in Michael Boutros' death (see related article, page 4).

Evidence given during Richard's trial indicated that Michael Boutros waited 30 minutes for an ambulance. That left his parents wondering whether more prompt medical attention could have saved his life. Boutros died of internal bleeding.

"They let my son die," May Boutros said. "They left him in the street without his shirt on. He was asking for help. It took half an hour for an ambulance to get there."

George Boutros said he wants to know why such a busy and prosperous place as Whistler does not have better emergency coverage. He would like to see a medical facility better equipped to deal with emergency cases, with attendant ambulances.

"They are making tons of money in Whistler," he said. "They can afford full-time people to save lives.

"Now they are having the Olympics there, and there are going to be millions of people passing through, and I don't know how they can save people if anything happens."

B.J. Chute, director of public education for the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., on Monday (Feb. 2) agreed that a 30-minute response time is "unacceptable, but unfortunately, all too common in most rural parts of the province."

But Kristy Hillen, spokesperson for the government-run B.C. Ambulance Service, on Tuesday (Feb. 3) said dispatch records from the incident show that only 10 minutes elapsed between the time a police officer called for an ambulance and the time the ambulance arrived.

"Whether there was some time from the shots initially being fired to the call coming in, I couldn't determine that," Hillen said.

Chute, who used to work as a paramedic in Whistler, said his organization has been lobbying "for as long as I can remember" for the B.C. Ambulance Service to increase both the number of paramedics and the number of ambulances available to deal with emergencies.

At night in Whistler, he said, one ambulance and two part-time paramedics are normally at the B.C. Ambulance station (just off Lorimer Road near Highway 99). A second ambulance is available, but the paramedics who operate it are on call, usually at home. If the first ambulance is already out on a call, it typically takes at least 30 minutes for the on-call paramedics to respond, Chute said.

"It's not fair to the communities to have these long response times," he said. "The paramedics are very dedicated individuals and do what they can with the resources that they have, but if they don't have the resources, it's difficult to reduce those response times.

"By adding paramedics into the station, you can greatly reduce response times."

Hillen declined to comment on the issue of paramedic staffing, resources and response times.

It should be noted that at the moment, paramedics and B.C. Ambulance Service officials are at an impasse in negotiations over a new contract.

Boutros's parents, meanwhile, said they hope the jury's guilty verdict sends a message to those who equate guns with glamour.

George and May Boutros said they live with constant grief as a result of their son's death. They said the senselessness of the shooting adds to their feelings of loss.

Michael Boutros, a Coquitlam plumber, was among a group of three men who spoke with members of another group in Tommy Africa's nightclub, and then, according to Boutros's parents, went to shake hands outside afterwards. One member of this second group, drug dealer Kyle Gianis, punched out one of Boutros's friends, instigating a brief confrontation, court was told.

This concluded with a shot fired by Richard, who testified during the three-week trial that Boutros had a broken bottle in his hand at the time.

As Gianis's bodyguard, Richard was carrying a loaded .380 semi automatic in his waistband. He drew the gun and fired at Boutros, at a metre's distance, without warning, according to court testimony.

The jury was told that in June 2008, a U.S. court sentenced Gianis to 13 years in prison for conspiracy to possess drugs for distribution.

"I hope the message goes out to people with guns," said George Boutros, who feels those who carry such weapons should be made to think of the consequences. "For the past two years we have been going crazy. We miss him so much.

"He went forward in peace, to shake a guy's hand - and this guy (Richard) comes and shoots him. He did not want to fight. He did not go up to Whistler to fight. He went there to have fun and enjoy the weekend."

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