POLITICS

RCMP get credit for saving woman's life in Kamloops standoff

05/19/2012 03:04 EDT | Updated 07/19/2012 05:12 EDT
KAMLOOPS, B.C. - The timely intervention of an RCMP negotiator is being credited with saving the life of a woman held hostage during a standoff in which it's believed the man responsible died.

The role of the negotiator is among new details of the incident revealed in a phone interview with CFJC radio by a man who said he was the woman's boyfriend and was at the home at the time.

David Madore said his girlfriend was only moments away from being killed Thursday night when the police negotiator called the home and persuaded a man, who had strapped explosives to himself, to let the woman go.

"He phoned and he started stroking his ego and saying, oh, how smart he was and everything else," Madore told CFJC.

"At that point he took his hand away from the explosives. He saved my girlfriend's life."

The man released the woman at midnight and continued talks with the negotiator before the phone went silent and officers at the scene reported two rapid explosions from within the house.

Published images show little is left of the residence, except for a few charred walls, timbers and a fireplace and chimney.

Coroner Barb McLintock said remains were recovered from the site sometime Saturday afternoon, and the remains were in a significantly better condition than officials had feared.

The next step for coroners will be to confirm the identification of the remains, she said.

The tragedy unfolded about 5 p.m. Thursday when the man strapped explosives to himself and took a woman hostage in her own home.

Initial reports suggested there were four children inside the house, but Madore said there were actually six children, including two of his own , when the suspect, carrying a long box in his arm, forced himself inside.

The man was initially identified as a former boyfriend of the woman, but Madore called those reports a "misconception," and said his girlfriend and the suspect were never in a relationship and knew each other through work.

He said he and his three-year-old daughter ran next door for help, while another child climbed through a window.

Another hero in the incident was the woman's 13-year-old daughter who got three other children out of the house, he said.

Police evacuated 15 homes and contacted the suspect inside the home shortly after the drama unfolded, just after 5 p.m., said RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned Friday.

Learned praised the heroics of police and firefighters Friday who worked in a dangerous and surreal situation.

Bomb technicians risked their lives to prevent a pipe bomb from exploding and causing fatalities in the immediate area, said Learned.

He said they also grabbed a propane tank and a gas cylinder from the approaching fire as flames ripped through the roof of the house.

Learned said the 44-year-old woman had twice called police after the suspect began leaving gifts outside her door.

Madore said his girlfriend and the rest of the family were to make a statement in the coming days.

McLintock said a specialized team, which has worked float-plane crashes and mill explosions, was at the scene Saturday to locate the suspect's remains.

"They have a number of skill sets," said McLintock of the recovery team. "But one of the key skills sets is that they're well trained in dealing with fire remains and in being able to sort out that which might be part of the human body from that which is otherwise generalized fire debris."

While police and the coroners service likely know the identity of the suspect, already described as an electrician, they won't release his name until they can confirm it, she said.

On Saturday, regional coroner Mark Coleman said the man's name will be released next week.

McLintock said the coroners service will write a full report and even look at what other issues may have led up to the incident.

Meantime, locals have begun rallying behind the victims by collecting household goods at a storage facility.

Virginia Rogers, 26, said she has known the family for several months and decided to collect household goods as soon as she heard about the incident.

She said the family has nothing left, but by Saturday afternoon residents had already donated a little bit of everything, including a bed, couch, chair, living room table, food, clothing, kitchen ware.

While she hasn't yet spoken with the woman, Rogers said she has seen the children and they appear to be doing OK.

"We got them some toys to play with to keep smiles on their faces," she said.

Rogers said the woman and her children are staying with friends. Rogers said she will hand over the donated goods once the family is ready to receive them.

"Basically the whole community of Kamloops is coming together," she said. "It is absolutely wonderful."

(CFJC/The Canadian Press/CHNL)

_ by Keven Drews in Vancouver