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‘He died waiting for the paramedics’: B.C. family grieves father’s heat wave death

Click to play video: 'Daughter blames a broken system for father dying during heat wave' Daughter blames a broken system for father dying during heat wave
A 71-year-old man died during the recent heat wave while waiting more than an hour and a half for an ambulance.His daughter blames the system. He fell ill with the effects of the heat and collapsed. His wife was unable to move him. – Jul 8, 2021

A B.C. woman is sharing her family’s grief after her father died during a 90-minute wait for an ambulance at the peak of the province’s heat wave.

Savita Ahuja says her mother called 911 when her 71-year-old father Gian Goel began to show signs of distress on Sunday, June 27.

“He had heat stroke, and he died waiting for the paramedics to come,” she said.

Read more: B.C. heat wave saw 719 people die in one week, says B.C. coroner

“It didn’t make any sense. He was pretty happy and healthy the day before. He went on a picnic with my mom, they were planning a road trip the weekend after. He was laughing and joking.”

The family lives about a 10 minute drive from Langley Memorial Hospital, but Ahuja said her mom wasn’t strong enough to transport her father to a vehicle.

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Click to play video: 'Firefighters’ union slams BC EHS heat wave response' Firefighters’ union slams BC EHS heat wave response
Firefighters’ union slams BC EHS heat wave response – Jul 2, 2021

She became increasingly frantic as the wait grew longer, Ahuja said.

“She had the most harrowing experience because she ran up and down the street screaming for help from the neighbours,” she said.

“Should we have to do that living in Canada? … My mom keeps blaming herself and it’s not fair.”

Read more: B.C. paramedic calls for head of BCEHS to resign over response to deadly heat wave

The BC Coroners Service has documented at least 719 deaths over the period of a week during B.C.’s heat wave — about three times what would be normal for that period. Many of the deaths were likely due to heat, according to the service.

BC Emergency Health Services, which administers paramedics in the province, says crews were dealing with an unprecedented call volume as temperatures rose.

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But the agency did not activate its emergency coordination centre until Tuesday, the day after the worst of B.C.’s heat.

Click to play video: 'Head of the BC Emergency Health Services apologizes to families who lost loved ones in the deadly heat wave' Head of the BC Emergency Health Services apologizes to families who lost loved ones in the deadly heat wave
Head of the BC Emergency Health Services apologizes to families who lost loved ones in the deadly heat wave – Jul 1, 2021

In an interview with Global News last week, BCEHS chief operating officer Darlene MacKinnon apologized to families left waiting amid long ambulance delays.

But she also defended the service, saying it had “all the powers we needed” and “I think we’ve done a very good job in the response.”

Ahuja disagreed, saying friends in India — where she is on sabbatical — can’t believe something like this could happen in Canada.

“How is that enough? It doesn’t bring my dad back,” she said.

“I want answers. What good job did you do? I don’t blame the paramedics, they’re overworked, they’re short staffed. What can they do? It’s the system.”

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