Jeremiah Perry told him he could not swim, camp instructor tells court

Two weeks before he drowned in Algonquin Park while on a school canoe trip, 15-year old Jeremiah Perry told the program manager at a camp north of Toronto that he and his brother could not swim.“I reassured him that the life jacket is going to hold him up, it’s going to be okay, just in and out (of the water) and get it over and done with,” Christopher Mackie testified Monday night at the criminal negligence trial of the Toronto teacher who organized the July 2017 trip.Nicholas Mills, 57, has pleaded not guilty to the charge. The key issue at the now week-old trial is Perry’s swimming ability. His parents have testified neither Perry nor his brother — who was also on the canoe trip — could swim. But the defence is arguing that Mills believed Perry could swim when he allowed him into Big Trout Lake without a life jacket.Mills, another teacher, a teenaged lifeguard and a handful of other students were present when Perry disappeared under the water that early evening on July 4, 2017.Two weeks earlier, Mills brought a busload of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate students to Sparrow Lake Camp, north of Orillia, so they could learn some outdoor skills and take a swim test. A pass was a prerequisite to attending the six-day Algonquin adventure. Mills created the program aimed at exposing at-risk youth to the Canadian wilderness.Mackie, who was working at the camp when Mills arrived, testified Monday night via Zoom from his native Australia - where it was morning - during a rare evening criminal court session in Toronto.He grew emotional describing a brief conversation he had with Perry, whom he vividly remembered because of the mixed martial arts T-shirt he was wearing.“I remember his face from when we found out this incident occurred, we Googled it and his face popped up immediately and it was just like the floodgates opened up about this specific conversation with Jeremiah Perry,” Mackie said, his bottom lip quivering.Crown attorney Anna Stanford shared a screen photo of Perry in front of Niagara Falls that was broadcast by media outlets after he drowned.“Is that the photo that you’re referring to?” she asked.“It’s him,” he said wiping tears from his eyes and prompting Justice Maureen Forestell to call for a short break. Mackie told the hybrid trial that Perry and many of the other students were not keen to do the swim test. It was an overcast and windy June day and the water was cold.Perry was in the last group to go into the water.“I recall putting a life jacket on Jeremiah and tying it up,” said Mackie, who jokingly told the teen to “suck it up, I know it’s cold, it’ll be over in a couple of minutes.”Mackie said prior to the swim test, Mills asked if the students could do a “basic” camp test that was easier than the one mandated by the Toronto District School Board.Mills “stated most of these kids would not pass the … (board sanctioned) swim test,” Mackie testified. He estimated at least half received the automatic fail.After the swim testing, which lasted about 90 minutes, Mackie said he spoke to Mills on the shoreline. He was one of the supervisors, while a colleague actually administered the test.Mackie said he told Mills he had concerns about him taking the group on a wilderness adventure, but felt the teacher “shrugged off” his comments. He regrets “that I could have done more.” Stanford asked why. “I had a feeling that some … things were off, if that makes sense.”During cross examination, defence lawyer Phil Campbell asked Mackie if he understood that Mills’ criticism of the TDSB-backed swim test standards might have stemmed from his “frustration” that the guidelines prevented “any teenager who could not swim from going on a wilderness canoe trip.”That prompted Stanford to object.“It just appears to me that what’s happening here is Mr. Campbell is giving evidence for Mr. Mills, as he asks these questions,” she told the judge.Forestell saw nothing improper about the question.Campbell also asked Mackie if he agreed that the outdoor education practises of “highly risk adverse” organizations, such as school boards and camps, were at an “elevated standard” compared to regular people doing the same activity.He agreed.However, Mackie said he was unable to say whether some of the kids with some swimming ability had chosen to wear a life jacket, because of the unfamiliar conditions of Sparrow Lake.The trial resumes Wednesday.Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

Jeremiah Perry told him he could not swim, camp instructor tells court

Two weeks before he drowned in Algonquin Park while on a school canoe trip, 15-year old Jeremiah Perry told the program manager at a camp north of Toronto that he and his brother could not swim.

“I reassured him that the life jacket is going to hold him up, it’s going to be okay, just in and out (of the water) and get it over and done with,” Christopher Mackie testified Monday night at the criminal negligence trial of the Toronto teacher who organized the July 2017 trip.

Nicholas Mills, 57, has pleaded not guilty to the charge. The key issue at the now week-old trial is Perry’s swimming ability. His parents have testified neither Perry nor his brother — who was also on the canoe trip — could swim. But the defence is arguing that Mills believed Perry could swim when he allowed him into Big Trout Lake without a life jacket.

Mills, another teacher, a teenaged lifeguard and a handful of other students were present when Perry disappeared under the water that early evening on July 4, 2017.

Two weeks earlier, Mills brought a busload of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate students to Sparrow Lake Camp, north of Orillia, so they could learn some outdoor skills and take a swim test. A pass was a prerequisite to attending the six-day Algonquin adventure. Mills created the program aimed at exposing at-risk youth to the Canadian wilderness.

Mackie, who was working at the camp when Mills arrived, testified Monday night via Zoom from his native Australia - where it was morning - during a rare evening criminal court session in Toronto.

He grew emotional describing a brief conversation he had with Perry, whom he vividly remembered because of the mixed martial arts T-shirt he was wearing.

“I remember his face from when we found out this incident occurred, we Googled it and his face popped up immediately and it was just like the floodgates opened up about this specific conversation with Jeremiah Perry,” Mackie said, his bottom lip quivering.

Crown attorney Anna Stanford shared a screen photo of Perry in front of Niagara Falls that was broadcast by media outlets after he drowned.

“Is that the photo that you’re referring to?” she asked.

“It’s him,” he said wiping tears from his eyes and prompting Justice Maureen Forestell to call for a short break.

Mackie told the hybrid trial that Perry and many of the other students were not keen to do the swim test. It was an overcast and windy June day and the water was cold.

Perry was in the last group to go into the water.

“I recall putting a life jacket on Jeremiah and tying it up,” said Mackie, who jokingly told the teen to “suck it up, I know it’s cold, it’ll be over in a couple of minutes.”

Mackie said prior to the swim test, Mills asked if the students could do a “basic” camp test that was easier than the one mandated by the Toronto District School Board.

Mills “stated most of these kids would not pass the … (board sanctioned) swim test,” Mackie testified. He estimated at least half received the automatic fail.

After the swim testing, which lasted about 90 minutes, Mackie said he spoke to Mills on the shoreline. He was one of the supervisors, while a colleague actually administered the test.

Mackie said he told Mills he had concerns about him taking the group on a wilderness adventure, but felt the teacher “shrugged off” his comments. He regrets “that I could have done more.” Stanford asked why. “I had a feeling that some … things were off, if that makes sense.”

During cross examination, defence lawyer Phil Campbell asked Mackie if he understood that Mills’ criticism of the TDSB-backed swim test standards might have stemmed from his “frustration” that the guidelines prevented “any teenager who could not swim from going on a wilderness canoe trip.”

That prompted Stanford to object.

“It just appears to me that what’s happening here is Mr. Campbell is giving evidence for Mr. Mills, as he asks these questions,” she told the judge.

Forestell saw nothing improper about the question.

Campbell also asked Mackie if he agreed that the outdoor education practises of “highly risk adverse” organizations, such as school boards and camps, were at an “elevated standard” compared to regular people doing the same activity.

He agreed.

However, Mackie said he was unable to say whether some of the kids with some swimming ability had chosen to wear a life jacket, because of the unfamiliar conditions of Sparrow Lake.

The trial resumes Wednesday.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

Source : Toronto Star More   

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‘Flying for you today Jenn’: As Snowbirds mark one year since fatal crash, are safety changes finally coming?

When he knew the plane was beyond saving, Captain Richard MacDougall called out to Captain Jenn Casey with an instruction aimed at giving her one last shot at survival: “Pull the handle.”They were in critical danger, zooming in a jet through the air above a quiet residential neighbourhood near the airport in Kamloops, B.C. As a later accident report would recount, their engine stalled after striking a bird. The last things that might save their lives were the ejection seats designed to launch them high enough into the air to buy their parachutes time to open and give them a safe landing.MacDougall, who was flying, and Casey, who was seated behind, both ejected — but neither parachute opened fully. MacDougall landed on a soft wood roof and survived. Casey died from the fall.The Halifax native was only 35 when she died — a journalist-turned-communications professional who loved her job with the elite flying squadron, according to friends.The crash that killed Casey happened one year ago Monday. In the 12 months since, the Royal Canadian Air Force has been confronting a problem they’ve known about since at least 2015: In the circumstances under which Casey died, the Snowbirds’ ejection system was not advanced enough to save her.“Jenn Casey embodied the very best of what it means to be a Snowbird. Enthusiastic, warm, witty, a true team player, a leader and an innovative powerhouse,” a statement from the Snowbirds reads. “The trust that we had in her to connect with the public was absolute.” Now, according to information sent by email to the Star, the RCAF is implementing upgrades to the ejection seat system, and conducting a feasibility study as to whether the Snowbirds’ aircraft, a jet called a CT-114 Tutor, can be fitted with a more advanced seat, the type of which would have offered Casey a better chance at survival.State-of-the-art ejection seats work in what’s called “zero/zero” conditions, meaning the plane can be at zero altitude (in other words, the ground), and zero air speed, and the seat will still rocket the occupant high enough in the air for the parachute to open and the occupant to land safely.Older ejection seats can also save lives, but they work under more limited conditions. “Zero/zero you can literally eject when you’re parked on the runway and you'll probably survive,” said Mike Doiron, president of an aviation consulting firm who used to work in system safety for Transport Canada.That’s not the case for the Weber CL-41 ejection seat currently fitted on the Snowbird jets. In order for it to work as intended, it has to be at least 150 feet in the air, and the plane has to be travelling between 60 and 350 knots, according to the RCAF report into the crash. The report found that the ejection seat performed “unpredictably” given the angle of the plane and that Casey did not have enough time before hitting the ground to eject properly. “The investigation concludes that there is nothing preventing the seat from performing in a similar fashion in the future,” the report reads. The military has been aware of the aging nature of the Tutor ejection system, and has expressed a need to replace it as far back as 2015, when the national defence department released a report on a project designed to figure out how to extend the lives of the aging planes past 2020.“The upgrade may include replacing wing components, replacing the ejection seat with a zero/zero capability and improving the wheel breaks to allow operations at remote locations,” the 2015 document reads. But later documents on the so-called Life Extension Beyond 2020 project, obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request, made no mention of replacing the ejection seats. However, the defence department Monday sent information on its plans to modernize — and potentially replace — the ejection seats in the planes. “Based on the findings from a feasibility study done in 2016, it was deemed to be extremely difficult to replace the entire escape system within the expected remaining lifespan of the Tutor fleet, and it was determined that the most effective way to further improve this system would be to focus on modernizing it rather than replacing it,” the defence department’s email reads. The Tutors are now expected to be in service until at least 2030.The department plans to replace several components of the ejection system by early next year, and implement a new parachute canopy design the year after that. “These upgrades to the escape system will increase survivability and seek to expand the ejection envelope,” the department wrote. The department also wrote that it’s conducting a feasibility study to fit a newer ejection seat that is used on another class of small planes.Doiron, the aviation consultant, said it makes sense the defence department had been weighing the risks of the subpar ejection system on the Snowbird jets with the cost and feasibility of fitting better ones on the planes. The Snowbirds’ current planes are small, a

‘Flying for you today Jenn’: As Snowbirds mark one year since fatal crash, are safety changes finally coming?

When he knew the plane was beyond saving, Captain Richard MacDougall called out to Captain Jenn Casey with an instruction aimed at giving her one last shot at survival: “Pull the handle.”

They were in critical danger, zooming in a jet through the air above a quiet residential neighbourhood near the airport in Kamloops, B.C. As a later accident report would recount, their engine stalled after striking a bird. The last things that might save their lives were the ejection seats designed to launch them high enough into the air to buy their parachutes time to open and give them a safe landing.

MacDougall, who was flying, and Casey, who was seated behind, both ejected — but neither parachute opened fully. MacDougall landed on a soft wood roof and survived. Casey died from the fall.

The Halifax native was only 35 when she died — a journalist-turned-communications professional who loved her job with the elite flying squadron, according to friends.

The crash that killed Casey happened one year ago Monday. In the 12 months since, the Royal Canadian Air Force has been confronting a problem they’ve known about since at least 2015: In the circumstances under which Casey died, the Snowbirds’ ejection system was not advanced enough to save her.

“Jenn Casey embodied the very best of what it means to be a Snowbird. Enthusiastic, warm, witty, a true team player, a leader and an innovative powerhouse,” a statement from the Snowbirds reads. “The trust that we had in her to connect with the public was absolute.”

Now, according to information sent by email to the Star, the RCAF is implementing upgrades to the ejection seat system, and conducting a feasibility study as to whether the Snowbirds’ aircraft, a jet called a CT-114 Tutor, can be fitted with a more advanced seat, the type of which would have offered Casey a better chance at survival.

State-of-the-art ejection seats work in what’s called “zero/zero” conditions, meaning the plane can be at zero altitude (in other words, the ground), and zero air speed, and the seat will still rocket the occupant high enough in the air for the parachute to open and the occupant to land safely.

Older ejection seats can also save lives, but they work under more limited conditions.

“Zero/zero you can literally eject when you’re parked on the runway and you'll probably survive,” said Mike Doiron, president of an aviation consulting firm who used to work in system safety for Transport Canada.

That’s not the case for the Weber CL-41 ejection seat currently fitted on the Snowbird jets. In order for it to work as intended, it has to be at least 150 feet in the air, and the plane has to be travelling between 60 and 350 knots, according to the RCAF report into the crash. The report found that the ejection seat performed “unpredictably” given the angle of the plane and that Casey did not have enough time before hitting the ground to eject properly.

“The investigation concludes that there is nothing preventing the seat from performing in a similar fashion in the future,” the report reads.

The military has been aware of the aging nature of the Tutor ejection system, and has expressed a need to replace it as far back as 2015, when the national defence department released a report on a project designed to figure out how to extend the lives of the aging planes past 2020.

“The upgrade may include replacing wing components, replacing the ejection seat with a zero/zero capability and improving the wheel breaks to allow operations at remote locations,” the 2015 document reads.

But later documents on the so-called Life Extension Beyond 2020 project, obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request, made no mention of replacing the ejection seats.

However, the defence department Monday sent information on its plans to modernize — and potentially replace — the ejection seats in the planes.

“Based on the findings from a feasibility study done in 2016, it was deemed to be extremely difficult to replace the entire escape system within the expected remaining lifespan of the Tutor fleet, and it was determined that the most effective way to further improve this system would be to focus on modernizing it rather than replacing it,” the defence department’s email reads. The Tutors are now expected to be in service until at least 2030.

The department plans to replace several components of the ejection system by early next year, and implement a new parachute canopy design the year after that.

“These upgrades to the escape system will increase survivability and seek to expand the ejection envelope,” the department wrote.

The department also wrote that it’s conducting a feasibility study to fit a newer ejection seat that is used on another class of small planes.

Doiron, the aviation consultant, said it makes sense the defence department had been weighing the risks of the subpar ejection system on the Snowbird jets with the cost and feasibility of fitting better ones on the planes. The Snowbirds’ current planes are small, after all, and the most advanced ejection seats are large. It would be an “engineering nightmare” to make it all work, he said.

“It’s a heart-wrenching scenario that someone as dynamic as Jenn Casey lost her life,” he said. “In the perfect world — we’d outlaw birds around airplanes and we’d have all ejection seats at zero/zero.”

The Snowbirds were temporarily grounded while an investigation took place on the crash. They began flying again last August, to keep the pilots current on their training. Although the probe, released in January, eventually concluded the chair could underperform in future, no immediate plans to upgrade them were announced.

Now, change may be coming.

Regardless of future upgrades, the pain lingers for those who knew and loved her, and for the B.C. communities connected to the crash.

Emotions were also high this week in Comox, the small Vancouver Island military town that serves as the squad’s spring training base. It was here that the pilots were headed when the crash occurred last year.

On their way to the spring training base last week, the Snowbirds did another flyover of the Brocklehurst area of Kamloops where the crash occurred. It was a balm for the neighbourhood traumatized by last year’s crash. One house was destroyed by the plane and hundreds, if not thousands, of residents were watching as the plane crashed down.

“We’re such a small community comparatively. When something like that happens it has such a ripple effect,” said Darlene Clark, who lives about six blocks from where the crash occurred. She described rows of hearts being set up near the airport after the crash, and hundreds of community members gathering to mourn. She wells up thinking about it.

“Those kinds of events are really important for our community. So when there’s a trauma that happens from it that’s also very impactful. So we’re looking for that way to remember that trauma respectfully.”

The Mayor of Kamloops and Captain Scott Boyd, a Snowbird and Jenn Casey’s partner, announced a permanent memorial Monday at the planned Fulton Field Park near the city’s airport. It will include an artist tribute to Casey and the Snowbirds.

The Snowbirds squadron tweeted “Flying for you today Jenn” on Monday morning, as they took off for training.

Heather McLeod Richardson, whose dad was in the army, watches the Snowbirds practice from her front lawn every year. She says she was devastated by the news last year, because all military members are like “family.”

“You know (the Snowbirds) really do put Canada on the map,” she said. “Because Canada is a peacekeeping country and we’re not in it for the war — we’re in it for things like this that bring people together.”

This morning she watched the Snowbirds fly in formation to make hearts in the sky, and thought of both Casey and MacDougall.

Alex McKeen is a Vancouver-based reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_mckeen

Source : Toronto Star More   

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