Investigations are underway looking into the death of a disabled Victoria teen sailor.
Gabriel Pollard, 16, had muscular dystrophy, a hereditary condition marked by progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles.
He was finishing up an afternoon of sailing with the Disabled Sailing Association of Victoria at Munroe Head, at a dock shared with the Canadian Forces Sailing Association on June 21 when a tragic accident took place.
Pollard was being transferred by a power lift from the Martin 16 vessel to the dock when the sling broke, dropping him to the ground and into the water.
While Pollard was retrieved from the water and taken to hospital, he died from his injuries later that day.
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is collaborating with the B.C. Coroners Service in looking into the circumstances around the death. The facility itself is not, however, on DND property.
“Our thoughts are with the family and with the staff for the trauma they’ve experienced,” said Doug Nutting, the Disabled Sailing Association’s director of operations, who was not on the scene at the time.
The program has been running since 1992 and no other injuries have ever been reported, he said.
“In the past 24 years, maybe we’ve had a cut or bruise here or there, but never a concussion, never a broken bone, nothing. We have approximately 200 people in the association, and go for 500 sailings per year.”
|Munroe Head (in the purple circle) is Public Services and Procurement Canada land near the Songhees Wellness Centre. It has a dock used by the Canadian Forces Sailing Association, that is also used by the Disabled Sailing Association of Victoria. File contributed|
Staff and volunteers do a visual inspection of the lift every day as part of their safety procedures, Nutting added, but he heard of no reports of problems with the equipment.
“We’ve suspended the program for now,” he said. “We weren’t in full season yet, and were only offering sails three days per week to people who have sailed with us before … The board has suspended the use of the lift until we know why it failed.”
Pollard had been sailing for three or four years. He was one of a few of the association’s members with a physical disability, since most have developmental issues or brain injuries.
The Coroners Service indicated Thursday that the investigation into the accident is in its preliminary stages.