Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dad remorseful after son, 5, shoots daughter, 4, by accident

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A gun that was used by a five-year-old boy to accidentally shoot his four-year-old sister on a Manitoba farm was stored in an unlocked closet along with winter coats and wasn't equipped with a trigger lock, their father says.

Dan Lachapelle said Monday the shooting, which happened over the weekend, was a horrible accident that could have been prevented.

"I am prepared to take full responsibility for not having my guns properly stored," he said. "This is something that very well could have been prevented. I know better. I took hunter safety and I just should have had at least trigger locks on them."

RCMP are investigating the shooting, which happened on a farm south of Brandon on Saturday afternoon. Lachapelle said his guns are normally kept locked in a closet with winter gear but, this time of year, the closet is often open.

"It's hunting season and the time of year when you get a lot more animals in the yard, we have chickens," he said.

While Lachapelle was at work, his wife was home with their three children, including their six-month-old baby. His son got a hold of his gun and asked to go outside and shoot it, Lachapelle said. His mother said no and took the gun into the bedroom where she laid it down while she changed the baby's diaper, he said.

While his mother tended to the baby, Lachapelle said his son managed to load the gun with a bullet and shot through a door. His four-year-old daughter was on the other side and was hit just below the kidney.

"I think he bumped into the door and his finger was on the trigger," Lachapelle said. "He did not take it out and point it right at his sister."

The girl was airlifted to a hospital in Winnipeg where she underwent surgery and was in stable condition.

"She's not out of the woods, yet," he said. "She had surgery that took out a chunk of her lower intestine and then they sewed it back together. She still has a pretty high risk of infection."

She's expected to remain in intensive care for at least another week.

"It will be a long road," said Lachapelle.

The family is shaken by the accident, he said. The boy likely didn't know what he was doing and doesn't know he hurt his sister, he said.

The boy was staying with relatives. Lachapelle said his son was always interested in guns and the father and son used to target practice together.

"This should be the last time it happens in Canada," said Lachapelle, hoping the accident serves as a warning to others.

Lachapelle had ordered a gun safe as a Christmas present but, like many parents of toddlers, he said they were more preoccupied with child-proofing the electrical sockets and cupboard doors. They never dreamed of such a tragedy, he said.

"Kids are kids and they will do stuff like this," he said. "Trigger locks save lives. Kids cannot shoot a gun if you have a trigger lock on it."

The shooting comes three weeks after a nine-year-old boy was accidentally shot and killed by his 14-year-old brother on the Sagkeeng First Nation. RCMP say they haven't decided if charges will be laid in that case.

Cpl. Miles Hiebert said investigators are looking into this latest accidental shooting, specifically how the five-year-old boy got his hands on a gun. The two cases underline the importance of firearm safety, Hiebert said.


-- The Canadian Press,

with files from the Free Press


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 29, 2011 A4

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