Province sues over death of disabled teen who fell while being hoisted from sailboat

The provincial government has launched a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court against the Disabled Sailing Association, the federal government and others related to the death last year of a disabled teenager.

On the afternoon of June 21, 2018, Gabriel Pollard, 16, who had a severe form of muscular dystrophy and was unable to use his legs and barely able to use his arms, was being hoisted out of a small sailboat in a hand-winch marine sling and lift when the lift, sling or both broke loose.

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Gabriel fell onto the sailboat, then into the water. He was transported by ambulance to Victoria General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, according to his mother, Carrie Pollard, who said she saw it all and has filed her own lawsuit.

The incident happened on a dock off federal land at Munroe Head used by the Canadian Forces Sailing Association, as well as the Disabled Sailing Association, a separate organization.

The dock is near Maplebank Road, adjacent to the Songhees Nation, in Esquimalt.

In court documents, the province says Gabriel succumbed to injuries from being dropped from the lift or sling and from being in the water “for some time.”

The province is suing for compensation for health-care costs related to Gabriel’s injuries.

Named defendants include the Victoria branch of the Disabled Sailing Association of B.C., Victoria Integration Society, Recreation Integration Victoria, Canadian Forces Sailing Association, the Department of National Defence, the Attorney General of Canada and employees of the sailing association branch or VIS/RIV, referred to as John Doe No. 1 and No. 2.

“As a result of the aforesaid negligence of the defendants, singly or together, the province has suffered damages for the costs of the past health care services rendered to Gabriel,” the province says in court documents.

The lawsuit follows a suit filed on Oct. 26, 2018, by his mother, Carrie Pollard, who is seeking damages for pain and suffering, loss of income and care and companionship, health-care costs and special damages.

The claim says Pollard has suffered shock, post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares and depression. Named defendants are the same as in the province’s suit, although the Department of National Defence was later dropped.

Court documents note that Pollard saw her son fall and strike the sailboat, then fall into the water and struggle while awaiting rescue.

She claims the defendants were negligent in failing to provide a proper and safe lift in good mechanical order for the use of disabled sailors; in modifying the lift/sling in a manner that did not comply with the manufacturer’s standards; in failing to have emergency training in place for staff, particularly in how to rescue a disabled sailor from the water; in failing to provide appropriate personal flotation devices, particularly PFDs that would keep a disabled sailor’s head above water.

On Aug. 19, the Victoria Integration Society and Recreation Integration Victoria, which co-ordinates recreation services for people with disabilities, responded to the civil claim by Pollard. They denied many of the claims, saying they did not have care or control of the “premises” and that they were not responsible for the supervision or training of any of the individuals who ran the sailing activities.

Other allegations were outside their knowledge, say court documents.

None of the allegations in either lawsuit have been proven in court.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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