Hamilton

Hamilton man was unable to call 911 during Rogers outage as sister was dying

A Hamilton family is in mourning after facing a life-or-death situation last week during the Rogers outage that had the country reeling, and an expert says it's evidence of the "fragility" of Canada's networks.

Shane Eby says aunt Linda's aneurysm likely would have been fatal even if his dad was able to call 911

Shane Eby's aunt Linda died on Friday during the Rogers outage. He says his dad was unable to call 911 during the Canada-wide outage that affected cellphone and other services. (Michael Cole/CBC)

A Hamilton family is in mourning after facing a life-or-death situation last week during the Rogers outage that left the country reeling, and an expert says it's evidence of the "fragility" of Canada's networks.

Shane Eby said his father and aunt, Gregg and Linda Eby, who are siblings and both in their 70s, were out doing their weekly errands in the city's core on Friday morning.

Shane said it was just past 10 a.m. ET when Gregg noticed Linda wasn't feeling well and had her sit down in a parking lot near a bank.

"He could see she was in distress and needed help, more than what my father could offer her," Shane told CBC News.

Gregg called on a security guard from the bank who also realized Linda was in trouble.

According to Shane, the next five to 10 minutes were brutal for his father.

First responders arrived eventually

Without cellphone service, Gregg was "scrambling."

Shane said his father and the security guard tried to flag down somebody nearby to help call 911, but couldn't find anyone.

"My father started running around the street past the parking lot trying to locate people," Shane said.

"He had to keep leaving her to try and find help," he said, tearing up.

Shane said his father never found anyone with cellphone service, but eventually, first responders arrived.

Shane believes the security guard may have been able to get help from someone in the bank or through a landline.

WATCH | Consumer group asks telecom watchdog for inquiry into Rogers outage: 

Consumer group asks telecom watchdog for inquiry into Rogers outage

5 months ago
Duration 1:00
John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, has requested the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) hold an inquiry into Rogers' nationwide outage and set new rules for all telecom providers.

While the ambulance had no defibrillator, the first firetruck on the scene did, according to Shane.

Dave Thompson, a supervisor with Hamilton Paramedic Service, told CBC Hamilton on Tuesday morning that paramedics were notified of the call near James Street South and Main Street at 10:25 a.m.

He said they arrived four minutes after the call. He added paramedics had a defibrillator and used it immediately, but noted they include cardiac monitors and don't look like standard defibrillators.

Shane said they revived Linda and took her to the hospital without Gregg. He said his dad couldn't use his vehicle at the time because police considered it as part of a potential crime scene.

It left Gregg struggling to get to the hospital, but he eventually found a taxi. Once Gregg got there, Shane said, he was "involved in the decision to take her off life-support."

Days after Linda's death, the family is still trying to cope with her loss.

"She was the matriarch of our family and both their parents have passed, so now my father is by himself," Shane said, adding she had two children and had "all the stories that most people in the family don't know."

Shane said he never imagined people would ever have trouble getting in touch with emergency services.

He added that doctors at the hospital said Linda's aneurysm likely would have been fatal even if Gregg had been able to call 911 right away. An aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel, and can rupture and cause internal bleeding. 

"That outage didn't cause my aunt to die, but ... every minute counts when something like that happens, and when it's not available, it seems to be something that could be worked on," said Shane.

WATCH | Rogers responds to massive network disruption:

Rogers CEO apologizes for massive service outage, blames maintenance update

5 months ago
Duration 1:52
Rogers CEO Tony Staffieri apologized for a lengthy network outage that affected customers across the country and blamed it on a network system failure following a maintenance update in its core network.

Tony Staffieri, president and chief executive officer of Rogers, said the outage was caused by a network system failure following a maintenance update.

On Monday, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne convened a meeting of telecom CEOs, including Staffieri, to talk about ways to prevent similar service disruptions, and called on them to develop a plan to bolster the resiliency of Canada's cellular and internet networks.

As well, the Public Interest Advocacy Centre made a formal request to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to hold an inquiry into the outage.

Outage wasn't a 'blip,' expert says

Vass Bednar, McMaster University's executive director of the master of public policy in digital society program, told CBC Radio's Metro Morning that this outage shouldn't be viewed as a "blip."

Vass Bednar, executive director of McMaster University's master of public policy in digital society program, says Rogers needs to give a full briefing of what caused the outage and what the company learned. (CBC)

Bednar said the outage put Canada "on the map in a humiliating and embarrassing way in terms of the fragility of our system and how interconnected it is, and that's what's leading people to kind of rethink it."   

The public needs and wants to be involved in conversations around telecom companies, she said.

"These services feel like they are now essential services and vital public infrastructure, but they're controlled by private corporations.

"It's not just that we might benefit from more robust competition in the space ... people are frustrated and feel they are paying increasing prices for something that just keeps letting them down."

Bednar said Rogers needs to give a full briefing of what caused the outage and what the company learned.

Shane said he hopes sharing his experience can help others and show telecom companies what's at stake when their services don't work. 

"It's not just about an economic transaction," he said. "Life-and-death scenarios play out every day."

LISTEN | Shane Eby tells Metro Morning about his father's experience:

Shane Eby is a Hamilton resident whose aunt suffered a fatal aneurysm during the Rogers outage. Vass Bednar is the Executive Director of Master of Public Policy in Digital Society at McMaster University speaks on the impact of the outage.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

With files from Idil Mussa, Metro Morning and The Canadian Press

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