Training deaths must stop, says daughter of firefighter who died during course

By , on February 13, 2015

Myrissa Kendall
Myrissa Kendall (screenshot from CBC footage)


TORONTO — The death of a volunteer firefighter who drowned five years ago during an ice rescue exercise in Ontario should have pushed the province to ensure those taking private training courses aren’t putting their lives at risk, the man’s daughter said in the wake of another fatal training incident.

Had the provincial government stepped in to regulate the safety training industry after her father’s death, it might have protected an Ontario firefighting student who died in a similar exercise on the weekend, Myrissa Kendall said.

“You would think that with the death of someone, that they would look more into it and laws would change to try to prevent this from happening again,” Kendall, 28, said in a phone interview from her home in the Sarnia, Ontario area.

“Unfortunately that was not done, and now it’s happened a second time.”

A spokesman for the minister of training, colleges and universities said the courses offered by safety training companies are considered single-skill training and thus aren’t covered by the Private Career Colleges Act. The Act regulates vocational training.

Sunday’s training death in Hanover, Ontario has prompted calls for the province to have oversight of safety training companies, which aren’t required to adopt the best practices established by the firefighting industry.

The companies provide specialty courses such a rope rescue or handling hazardous materials to fire departments, firefighting students and others. One fire chief expressed concerns that firefighting students could fall prey to unqualified trainers as they seek additional skills ahead of the job hunt.

Adam Brunt, who died in an ice rescue exercise Sunday, took the course — which isn’t mandatory to become a firefighter — through a private company to increase his chances of finding a job, his father said.

Police say Brunt, 30, was trapped under the ice for 15 minutes.

He was one of 12 students taking part in the class, with one instructor, police said.

Police and the Ontario Ministry of Labour are investigating.

The ministry said the course was run by Herschel Rescue Training Systems, a Toronto-area company.

The company’s owner and master instructor, Terry Harrison, was acquitted after being charged in 2010 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the death of Kendall’s father, Gary Kendall, according to court documents.

A judge ruled Harrison had not officially been designated as incident commander for the exercise, and thus could not be held responsible for the firefighters’ safety, the documents show.

The municipality of Point Edward was fined $75,000, while charges against its fire chief were dropped.

A prosecutor for the Ministry of Labour called for a coroner’s inquest after the trial, but the Ontario coroner’s office said none was conducted.

Kendall said her family was “shocked” to hear the circumstances of Brunt’s death.

“We’re pretty much just reliving everything,” she said.

“Rules and regulations need to be put in place and there need to be strict guidelines on how to follow it …,” she said.