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Man's death on northern Manitoba reserve prompts questions over air ambulance

06/18/2015 11:04 EDT | Updated 06/18/2016 05:59 EDT
BERENS RIVER, Man. - Nurses and aboriginal leaders are demanding answers for why a man died on a remote northern reserve after an air ambulance company said it could not fly into the community.

Orval McKay, 29, was seriously injured in a hit-and-run on the Berens River First Nation last weekend and was rushed to the nursing station about 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning.

The reserve, which is 270 kilometres north of Winnipeg, has no road access in the summer and is only accessible by air.

Nurses say they called Lifeflight Air Ambulance but were told flights could not land there, although provincial officials confirm Lifeflight has flown to Berens River more than 40 times between 2008 and 2015.

Teresa Mrozek of Lifeflight says the company does fly at night but there are challenges with the Berens River airstrip, which is just over 883 metres long, which is 20 metres short of the required length for the Lifeflight jet to land.

She says because it is a shorter airstrip "it needs specific conditions in order to land there."

The province also says STARS air service couldn't respond for a number of reasons, one of which is that the community is at the edge of the range where their helicopter can fly.

Health Emergency Management says an air ambulance was finally dispatched sometime after 2:30 a.m., but McKay died before it attempted to land.

Berens River Chief Jackie Everett says enough is enough and she wants to know who made the decision and why.

“This death has impacted the whole community," she says. "There are questions of why and what if in order to move forward.

"I totally don't believe what they are saying. Why are they in this business if they can't produce?"

Nurses on the reserve say they are frustrated.

Candice Rookes says when McKay arrived at the station, he was not in good condition and was bleeding profusely.

"But he was alive, and he was breathing and he had a heartbeat and he had good blood pressure."

She says they did everything they could to save him, but he died about two hours and 45 minutes later.

“It’s very hard — he died right he front of us,” says Sylvio Poitras, another nurse who helped treat McKay. “He was fighting through to the end. I wish someone came from Winnipeg. He would have had at least a fighting chance."

(CTV Winnipeg)

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