Canada

Another death in E.coli outbreak

The deadly E. coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ont. has claimed a sixth victim - an elderly patient who was being cared for at a local hospital.

Two other adults are still in hospital. They are reported to be in good condition.

Earlier in the day the man many people in Walkerton have been wanting to talk to surfaced. Stan Koebel, the general manager of the town's Public Utilities Commission, has kept a low profile since people started to become sick from E. coli.

Koebel appeared before the media Tuesday afternoon, but let his lawyer do the talking for him.

Bill Trudell says Koebel is suffering along with the community. "He has been devastated with the loss of lives and suggestions that he or anyone else is to blame," Trudell said.

The regional medical officer of health, Dr. Murray McQuigge, has said that Koebel knew there was a problem with the water, but didn't admit it when asked.

Some people in Walkerton say if McQuigge's allegation is true, Koebel may have made an honest mistake. Others are concerned that Koebel might be severely depressed over the situation.

Trudell says his client "is very grateful for the compassion and understanding which has been shown."

Koebel is under a doctor's care, and wants the media to leave him be.

Six people have died in the past week after becoming infected with E. coli. Twelve people remain in hospital, including four children who are in critical condition.

The outbreak made hundreds of people sick, and it has many asking how this sort of tragedy could have happened.

The Ontario government has said it won't launch a public inquiry into the outbreak, though it admits it knew about problems with the town's water supply two years ago.

Opposition parties are demanding an immediate public inquiry.

Instead, the Conservative government has sent the case to a legislative committee to review the findings of investigations by the police, the Environment Ministry and the coroner.

There have been questions about when it was known that Walkerton had a problem. Deputy Environment Minister Stien Lal revealed Monday that the province had a report detecting E. coli in Walkerton's water in 1998. The utilities commission promised to implement an inspector's recommendations, but no one confirmed if anything was changed.

Then, coliform contamination was found in the water in January. In April, four water samples taken in Walkerton showed coliform bacteria.

Lal admits the ministry violated its own guidelines because it didn't notify the medical officer of health at the time. But Lal says the coliform is not directly linked to the E. coli contaminating the drinking water.

The Opposition has blamed budget cuts and the transfer of testing to private labs for the E. coli outbreak.

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