Witnesses at Raptors parade shed more light on situation involving baby in distress
Attendees of the Raptors championship parade have shed more light on the situation involving a baby suffering a fatal medical episode at the event.
On Thursday, Global News reported several first responders in the city were concerned with how the parade, which took place June 17, was “poorly planned” and lacked support.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said several officers approached him with concerns while Mike Merriman, the paramedic and EMS unit chair for CUPE Local 416, called the event a “total disaster.”
Toronto police media relations officer Caroline de Kloet confirmed to Global News that at approximately 1:30 p.m. on the day of the parade, police responded to a medical complaint in the area of University Avenue and York Street.
Global News initially learned from multiple sources that a baby suffered a medical episode during the event and that due to the large number of people, it was difficult for emergency services to get to them.
However, two parade attendees said Friday that help arrived on scene right away but that was because emergency service honour guards just happened to be stopped in the area at the time.
WATCH: Exclusive video appears to show police transport of baby in medical distress at Raptors parade
John Cruickshank, who attended the parade with his kids told Global News they got to the parade around 9 a.m., assuming they’d be out by noon. Cruickshank said he actually rode in on the train with the woman and her baby and ended up watching the parade with them in the area where the incident took place.
He said just as the police, firefighter and paramedic honour guards were stopped in front of them, he sensed a commotion next to him.
“I looked over and that was when mom had the baby out of his carrier and was holding him and it was very clear the baby was in medical distress and needed help,” he said. “So myself and others started shouting at the police that we needed help.
“I think it took a few seconds to register something was going on and by then the firefighters were here, police were moving the barrier and at that point they moved them out of the way.”
Cruickshank said everyone was very professional and got there within seconds, however, he doesn’t know what would have happened had the honour guards not been stopped there at the time.
“It wasn’t clear to me who I would ask for help if they weren’t there because we didn’t see any parade officials or none that were clearly visible as parade officials. So really, if the police weren’t there, I don’t know who I would ask,” he said, adding the lack of cell service meant no one could call out or in for help, as well.
WATCH: Video shows alleged incident of baby suffering fatal medical episode at Raptors parade
In the event of future parades, Cruickshank said there would need to have people clearly marked as officials and better crowd control.
He called the event “rattling.”
“The baby was clearly in need of medical attention and was clearly in a great deal of distress and that’s something you don’t really forget.”
Laura Cannone, who was attending the parade with her brother-in-law and their children in the same area, echoed Cruickshank’s version of events and said as soon as people behind them started to scream “help, help,” officers walking by immediately stopped and jumped in to help.
“They made everybody move out of the way. One of them instructed another officer to call someone and within a minute or two someone already arrived at the scene,” Laura said, adding a black SUV pulled up and officers rushed the baby away.
Laura also said a golf cart came up a couple of minutes later and took the mother in the same direction.
She called the scene “mass hysteria” but said the officers involved were “amazing.”
Merriman told Global News it was paramedics who initially helped the woman, but confirmed they were honour guards, which are former paramedics and/or volunteers. He said they are now in counseling.
In a joint statement by Toronto police, the City of Toronto, and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Thursday evening, officials acknowledged the infant’s death, but disputed some of unions’ claims.
“At approximately 1:30 p.m., the mother noticed her child was suddenly unresponsive and called out for help. Paramedics began attending to the infant,” the statement read.
“A radio call went out for a medical distress and a nearby Toronto Police SUV with two Toronto Police Service employees including an officer and a civilian arrived and rushed the paramedics and the infant to hospital, arriving in 6 minutes … Reports that neither medics nor police could get to the baby are unfounded. The infant arrived at hospital in 6 minutes from the police arriving at the scene.”
The statement also said the infant regained vital signs that afternoon, but passed away June 19.
WATCH: Emergency services say Raptors parade delayed crews getting to baby suffering fatal medical episode (June 27, 2019)
McCormack told Global News he had a meeting with Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders Friday morning and that they “came to a resolution that we [the union] would be part of the debriefing so we can look at what happened here and have input on how to do a better job next time the Raptors win or next time we have another event like this in the City of Toronto.”
“The issue for us, is the people that were the ones who responded first — police officers and paramedics — were marching in the parade,” he continued. “They weren’t designated to security or emergency personnel assigned to the parade.”
While the exact number of parade attendees was never provided, city officials estimated over two million people were on-hand to watch the celebration, which took over five hours to complete rather than the planned three.
Overcrowding became an issue early in the day, as officials were forced to close down Nathan Phillips Square – where the parade route ended- at around noon due to it being overcapacity.
Several fans climbed the arches at NPS to get a better vantage point. The festivities were put on pause while officials went on the loudspeaker to tell them to get down due to safety concerns.
City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross told Global News at the time several people suffered from heat stroke but were treated by paramedics.
Fire district chief Stephan Powell said firefighters dealt with about a dozen calls for dehydration in the packed NPS.
Merriman also said a man suffered cardiac arrest at the parade and it took paramedics an hour to get them to the hospital.
When pressed about the incident and the concerns about lack of planning, Saunders said the feedback he received from most of his officers was that they had a positive experience.
WATCH: Chief Mark Saunders denies report police turned down help for Raptors parade
He said there was over 525 resources deployed for the parade.
The City of Toronto said it will review the way it plans for future championship parades.
On Thursday, Mayor John Tory called the incident a “terrible tragedy” and told reporters it only “underlines and increases” his own determination to see that review looks at every aspect of the parade.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.