Thursday, June 28, 2012

Margaret Wente: that boat don’t float

Coming down hard on the Elliot Lake rescue, Margaret Wente writes: “Then there was the man who fell out of a boat into a lake in England. The lake was three feet deep. Emergency crews were summoned to the scene, but refused to rescue him because they were not trained to enter water that was more than ‘ankle deep.’ By the time the specialist water team arrived, the man was dead”.

A boat in three feet of water?  Hmm…sounds odd.  Perhaps, memory failing, Ms. Wente decided to spice up the story?  (In the past she’s been happy to change a scientist into a fisherman, or borrow a character and place him at an event he didn’t attend).    After all, what does it matter?

From the Daily Mail , the case of Simon Burgess, who, while feeding swans at the edge of a  three foot deep artificial lake, went in to retrieve his plastic bag, suffered a seizure, and fell in the water:

“12:15 pm:  Witness Gillian Hughes dials 999.  Simon Burgess, who had entered the lake to retrieve a plastic bag, is lying face down in the water and has stopped moving…

12:22:  When Fire Rescue arrives, Mrs. Hughes says the victim has been in the water for between five and ten minutes…there is no visible sign of life…”

Apparently, “the first fire crew to arrive hadn’t been trained to enter water higher than ankle-deep”.

"12:31:  Specialist Water Support Unit arrives…officers wade into the pond to retrieve him…"

Lack of judgment on the part of the rescuers?  Over cautious?  Absolutely. 

But if Ms. Wente expects others to do their jobs, we also expect her to do hers.  That means accuracy in reporting, and not making up characters or events to suit one’s opinion, or because it’s too much trouble to check facts. 

Update:  The following Editor’s Note is now appended to the online version of Wente’s article.  We await a similar correction for the error noted above:
Editor's note: An elderly woman had to wait for an ambulance after falling in a Niagara Region hospital entrance last year. An incorrect location was used in an article Thursday.

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