A Toronto transit fare collector who sparked a public outcry last January by sleeping on the job has died.
A Jan. 9 photo of George Robitaille sleeping in a fare collection booth went viral on the internet, sparking comments that ranged from ridicule to outrage.
Robitaille, 55, died Saturday, after suffering a stroke on Thursday. He had been on medical leave, and had explained after the napping incident that medications, including heart medication, had contributed to his falling asleep at work.
The image of Robitaille leaning back with his eyes closed and his mouth open became a lightning rod for public complaints about Toronto transit workers. Some transit workers replied by creating a Facebook page and posting photographs of poorly behaved passengers.
Bob Kinnear, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, says Robitaille had a flawless record during his 29-year career, but that the napping incident left Robitaille disheartened.
He was dedicated to the job and worried that the picture would have a negative effect on co-workers, Kinnear said.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said Robitaille should not be remembered for his error. He noted that Robitaille was commended in the 1990s, during his time as a WheelTrans operator, for saving a client he had found collapsed at home.
"We have to, as a society, not reflect back on a single mistake that an individual made, but rather look at their life and remember them as a human being who had friends, who had family, who had colleagues who cared for him deeply," Ross said. "And our condolences go out to all of his family and friends and colleagues at the TTC."