Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sorry for senior's dangerous fall

Handi-Transit apologizes for spill that could have been much worse

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The family of a 93-year-old man toppled out of his wheelchair by a careless Handi-Transit driver last week has accepted an apology from the city-run transportation company.

Ernest Chenier was leaving a medical clinic when the driver accidentally bumped a curb with the Second World War veteran's wheelchair. A city spokeswoman says when "the driver's foot accidentally slipped off the wheelchair when lowering the chair off the curb, the registrant (Chenier) fell out of the chair."

Chenier was flung to the street. He suffered scrapes, cuts and bruises.

"I fell face-first," the retired plumber said. "I cracked the fingernails on my hand. I have pain in my right arm. There were some cuts. I still have the bandages on."

Luckily, Chenier fell towards the van and not onto Pembina Highway, where it was parked.

The nurse at his personal-care home patched him up when he returned home.

"I'm pretty lucky. It happened so suddenly. It's a good thing nothing was broken."

He said the driver apologized and said he hadn't seen the curb.

Chenier's nephew, Denis Chenier, called Handi-Transit to report the incident. He's outraged the driver was so sloppy.

"My own father died in a fall, so I know how serious this could have been," he said. "He bumped his head and died three days later."

His uncle is in good health, Chenier said. They'd like to keep him that way.

"I still don't understand how someone's foot slipping could cause this. Aren't they supposed to hold on with their hands?"

When a Handi-Transit rep called Denis Chenier, he was told his uncle did not hit his face. He has a sore shoulder and is recuperating.

He "did not suffer any great aftershock or side-effects," Chenier said. "We're really lucky."

Handi-Transit reviewed the incident and apologized to Denis Chenier. They offered their regrets to Ernest Chenier.

The driver, the city spokesperson said, "feels terrible about what happened."

Chenier's personal-care home was informed he hadn't been properly buckled into his chair. Had he been, he likely wouldn't have hit the pavement.

Ernest Chenier said aside from a bit of gout, he feels fine.

"Everyone tells me I don't look my age!"

A city spokesperson said Handi-Transit makes 490,000 trips annually.

They receive only six safety complaints a month. Other complaints include late pickups, the routes drivers choose and courtesy concerns.

Ernest Chenier literally dodged bullets during the Second World War, so he's putting his mishap in context. He's glad he wasn't badly injured and thankful he didn't fall into traffic. Other than that, says the 93-year-old, there's not much to worry about.

"I'm glad they said they were sorry. I'm very glad I didn't get run over or something. The nurse here (at his personal-care home) took very good care of me."

He chuckles.

"I guess I'm pretty tough for someone my age. I'm still here, so that's a good thing."

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 20, 2013 A13

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About Lindor Reynolds

National Newspaper Award winner Lindor Reynolds began work at the Free Press as a 17-year-old proofreader. It was a rough introduction to the news business.

Many years later, armed with a university education and a portfolio of published work, she was hired as a Free Press columnist. During her 20-plus years on the job she has written for every section in the paper, with the exception of Business. She’ll get around to them some day.

Lindor has received considerable recognition for her writing. Her awards include the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ general interest award and the North American Travel Journalists Association top prize.
Her work on Internet luring led to an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada and her coverage of the child welfare system prompted a change to Manitoba Child and Family Services Act to make the safety of children paramount.

She has earned three citations of merit for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism and has been awarded a Distinguished Alumni commendation from the University of Winnipeg. Lindor was also named a YMCA/YWCA  Woman of Distinction.

She is married with four daughters. If her house was on fire and the kids and dog were safe, she’d grab her passport.
 
lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

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