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article imageQuebec coroner blames witness indifference in man's subway death

By Megan Hamilton     Feb 8, 2015 in Odd News
Montreal - A man who was severely injured by a subway train and subsequently collapsed on a Metro platform in Montreal may have survived if someone had just stopped to help him, according to a report released last Friday by Quebec coroner Jacques Ramsay.
Radil Hebrich, 59, was struck and killed by the Metro car in January, 2014 at Langelier station in Montreal, CBC News reports.
Bleeding profusely, he fell on the platform. The incident was captured in its entirety by security cameras.
"Its very provocative, because for 16 minutes you see Mr. Hebrich on the platform with nobody that tries to provide help," Ramsay told CBC News.
In the report, he noted that dozens of people and three Metro trains passed by the severely wounded man.
No one stepped in to help Hebrich.
"Some people actually turn and look at what's happening, but nobody goes to give him help," he said. "People coming into the station do not know what happened and consequently, don't feel involved."
While it took 16 minutes for emergency services to arrive, another three minutes ticked by before paramedics began trying to revive Hebrich. He died shortly afterwards, CBC News reports.
It isn't certain whether an earlier intervention might have improved Hebrich's chances of surviving because of the seriousness of his head injury, Ramsay said, but he also added:
"If you're 19 minutes without CPR ... it does not help your chances."
"As for the indifference of the passengers," he wrote in the report, "It says a lot about citizen apathy in our society. There is not much positive to write about this operation."
While he languished on the platform at least 40 people walked by, some glancing curiously in his direction and wandering on, perhaps thinking he was merely another drunk who'd passed out, with his head just inches from passing trains, surveillance cameras show. One person bent and rifled his pockets, possibly checking for identification, but didn't check for a pulse, The National Post reports.
Hebrich was also noticed by three Metro drivers, one of whom may have called 911. He suffered a deep gash on the right side of his head and there were multiple skull fractures as well as an "unstable" fracture on one of his vertebrae. There was also blood in his nose and mouth, Ramsay said.
Born in Algeria, Hebrich was an architect and established a successful practice in the 1990's. Then he moved to Quebec with his wife Louiza Messal and his two children in the earlier part of this century and fell on hard times because he was unable to find work as an architect. He began a long, slow slide into alcoholism.
"This is not something that really surprises us, at first glance," Bernard St-Jacques, a community organizer with a local homeless advocacy group told The National Post. Although it was obvious that Hebrich was in distress, "sometimes there are people who aren't in a particularly noticeable position. The situation in the Metro is particular like that, because we often see people lying on the ground."
The incident is "worrisome" he noted, and said that the STM may need to review instructions given to employees about dealing with unusual situations or possible injuries. Employees, St-Jacques said, can also be subject to "the bystander effect" — which means that people don't step in because they think someone else is already doing so.
"We think: 'OK, there must be someone coming," he says. "This situation makes no sense.' But that's not necessarily the case."
In his report, Ramsay makes only one recommendation: that the STM, Montreal's public transit authority review its response to the tragedy and check to see if the proper safety measures were followed.
Reviewing the surveillance tape of Hebrich's suffering was "traumatizing" and should serve as a lesson, Ramsay told CTV Montreal.
"At one point I think people assume that help is on its way but there are things that one can do and I think this is something we need to remind ourselves," he said.
Although mouth-to-mouth resuscitation is no longer advised for these types of situations, cardiac massage is easy to administer.
This case was a surprise, Ramsay said, because people are often helpful in other similar circumstances.
"I would want to be careful before making a statement about Quebec society, on the contrary, I think that Quebec society and individuals you meet in the street are very caring." he said. "That's why I think this report is pertinent and helpful; it can alert us to what can happen when you relax and assume that the next person will take care of providing help," he said.
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