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Bob Mackin

So British Columbians wait. For law and order. 

Evidence is mounting about how casinos, real estate and the illicit trade of opiates intersect. The common denominator is the flood of money from Mainland China. 

Yes, hockey bags of cash, empty mansions with multiple European luxury cars (sans licence plates) and fentanyl overdose victims in bodybags are part of the same vicious circle in 21st century British Columbia. 

Attorney General Eby (Mackin)

The most-recent work by reporters Kathy Tomlinson and Sam Cooper has put more pressure on NDP Attorney General David Eby to act. And act now, he must. 

It won’t be easy, but Eby must clean up the mess left by his six BC Liberal predecessors: Suzanne Anton, Shirley Bond, Barry Penner, Mike de Jong, Wally Oppal and Geoff Plant. The latter was attorney general after Gordon Campbell came to power on a platform that promised no expanded gambling in B.C.

The opposite happened.

Under Campbell and his successor, Christy Clark, B.C. became Las Vegas North or Macau West, depending on your perspective. The BC Liberals became addicted to casino profits, even if it meant some of the money was dirty. While he was Solicitor General, ex-Mountie Rich Coleman shut down a police squad in 2009 that was supposed to protect British Columbians. At the peak of conceit, de Jong celebrated his 20 years of representing Abbotsford citizens in the Legislature, by roasting himself in Richmond at River Rock, a casino he was supposed to regulate

We are told the first steps toward law and order are coming in the Feb. 19 budget, but the public wants more than baby steps and they don’t want to wait years.

Eby has already ordered Peter German, a law professor and former head of the RCMP in Western Canada, to expand his casino money laundering review to consider suspicious real estate lending. German was hired last fall, shortly after Eby released the MNP report into River Rock Casino Resort that former gambling and real estate minister Mike de Jong buried for fear it would cost the BC Liberals their stranglehold on power. 

Before the provincial election, on March 21, 2017, Eby hosted Charbonneau Commission lawyer Sonia LeBel at the University of B.C.’s Allard School of Law on the same day he released an English translation of the Quebec anti-corruption inquiry’s key third volume: Schemes, Causes, Consequences and Recommendations. Eby was shocked with what he heard at an October 2016 Robson Square forum hosted by Transparency International, where officials from Quebec’s Unité permanente anticorruption. 

Robert Lafrenière, commissioner of the 2011-created UPAC, said at the “Follow the Money” event that the plague of corruption must be demystified. It is, in a nutshell,  “misuse of public resources, worsening of the public deficit, reduction in public revenues through tax evasion, [and] deterioration in the provision of public services and assets.”

Even rank-and-file NDP members want change. Last November’s convention adopted a Coquitlam-Burke Mountain resolution, calling for a comprehensive crackdown on corruption in B.C. 

Eby has increased the expectations and it is time for him to deliver. He spoke at UBC last December, saying the chickens have come home to roost after 16 years of BC Liberal indifference to corruption. “Our international reputation is on the line,” Eby said bluntly.

“It is clear, in my opinion, that the previous administration was aware we had a serious and growing reputational issue. It is also clear to me that they evaluated the costs of cracking down on white collar crime, on fraud, on money laundering, and determined that the benefits of inaction outweighed the costs of action. Because they did not take the actions required to address the issues we have. 

“It is hard for me not to speculate that some may gone further and seen a lax approach to money laundering, fraud, corporate transparency, land title registry transparency, as a competitive advantage, or a budgetary advantage, for the province.”

theBreaker asked Eby’s staff on Feb. 19 to arrange an interview, for some pre-budget details, but they failed to do so. They also did not answer who was the author of handwritten notes disclosed to theBreaker from a pivotal Sept. 25, 2017 meeting. It is believed the handwriting is Eby’s. 

The few lines visible in a heavily censored document give a glimpse into the meeting, the one where Eby was briefed on the “Vancouver Model” of money laundering, which had caught the attention of Canada’s partners in the “five eyes” security alliance: The United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. 

What the handwritten notes do confirm is that the meeting, about Anti-Money Laundering, included deputy minister Richard Fyfe, retiring Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch executive director of compliance Len Meilleur, his successor Anna Fitzgerald, GPEB intelligence and investigations unit manager Bob Stewart,  intelligence officer Scott McGregor, and Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team investigations manager Ken Ackles. 

There was discussion about the MNP report, which was released Sept. 22.

“Reform of Corporate Registry and Land Title Office.” 

“Possibility of expanding references beyond purely gaming.”

“Issue around Paragon coming to B.C. Didn’t have enough background info re granting or reviewing licences.”

B.C. does not have a registry of beneficial ownership of real estate or companies, a weakness identified in a 2016 Transparency International “No Reason to Hide” report that included input from Eby. That’s the one that said “shell companies are effectively financial getaway cars that can be used to enable criminals to vanish without a trace.” 

The NDP’s 2017 platform used icons to represent BC Liberal malfeasance (NDP)

There is no explanation why German’s references weren’t immediately expanded beyond gaming. 

Paragon opened its Parq casino later that week. Until the River Rock money laundering scandal, and while he was the opposition critic for gambling, Paragon attracted intense scrutiny from Eby. How the little-known Las Vegas company became a big time player in B.C. remains mysterious. Campbell crony T. Richard Turner, who chaired ICBC and the B.C. Lottery Corp., became a Paragon director. 

The rest of the pages, more than two dozen, were censored, in full, for intergovernmental relations, law enforcement and recommendations or advice.

So British Columbians wait. For law and order. 

MAG-2017-74079 – Eby Gaming Briefing by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin So British Columbians wait. For law

Bob Mackin

A controversial Mexican union boss, who fled to British Columbia in 2006 with his wife and three children, is a candidate for his homeland’s senate, reports Mexico’s El Universal newspaper.

Los Mineros president Napoleon Gomez Urrutia was nominated by the Morena party on Feb. 18, the eve of the 12th anniversary of an explosion at a coal mine that killed 65 men in Coahuila. 

Leo Gerard (left), Napoleon Gomez Urrutia and Len McCluskey (Facebook)

Gomez blamed mining company Grupo Mexico and the Mexican government for “industrial homicide.” He was charged in June 2006 for allegedly embezzling USD$55 million from a union trust fund that was dissolved in 2005. 

Oxford-educated Gomez succeeded his father as the union’s leader in 2000, but never worked in a mine. He denied the charges. A Mexican appeal court, on Aug. 28, 2014, called the charges unconstitutional and cancelled an arrest warrant. 

In 2013, the year before he became a Canadian citizen, Gomez published his memoir, Collapse of Dignity: The Story of a Mining Tragedy and the Fight against Greed and Corruption in Mexico. The foreword was written by United Steelworkers’ boss and B.C. NDP backer Leo Gerard. 

Elections BC’s database shows seven donations to the NDP, from 2009 to 2017, by Napoleon Gomez, totalling $2,680. 

Last September, Jerry Dias, president of Canada’s Unifor union, spoke at a Mexico City labour convention where he called on the Mexican government to let Gomez return safely. 

Mexico has a 128-member Senate, which is elected, in-part, by proportional representation. Senators are elected to six-year terms. Voting day is July 1. 

Announcement of Gomez’s candidacy, from Los Mineros website.

El Universal reported that 89 miners have died in Coahuila since the 2006 disaster. From 2008 to the third quarter of 2016, 311 miners died on the job in Mexico, according to government statistics obtained by the newspaper.

Update (Feb. 28): El Universal has reported that Mexico’s Federal Board of Conciliation and Arbitration (JCFA) ordered Los Mineros to pay almost $55 million to workers affected by the 2005 trust dissolution. With interest, the award could be as high as $100 million. 

The newspaper reported that companies Industrial Minera Mexico and Grupo Mexico complied with obligations. theBreaker is seeking comment from both the USW and Gomez’s union, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos, Siderúrgicos y Similares de la República Mexicana.



Bob Mackin A controversial Mexican union boss, who

On this week’s edition of Podcast, host Bob Mackin interviews sports agent Brant Feldman, who is in PyeongChang for the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

Feldman represents a variety of Canadian and American athletes, including Canadian hockey player Meghan Agosta. She is taking a break from her duties as a Vancouver Police office in a quest to win another gold medal. 

Feldman offers his perspective on what it’s like on the ground in South Korea at the Games of Ice and Snow. 

Plus all the regular features. It’s free to listen below. Find out how you can get a free copy of Bob Mackin’s e-book, Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Thank-you to James Plett, a $10/month newshound. Find out how to support theBreaker. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: Postcard from PyeongChang

On this week's edition of Podcast,

Bob Mackin 

Vancouver, Surrey and Richmond tried to woo Amazon to set-up its second headquarters in Lotusland with promises of cost savings and secret incentives from the provincial government. 

That, according to the 50-page bid book obtained Feb. 16 by theBreaker

Introduction to the Vancouver Economic Commission bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Lotusland was among 238 bids from around North America in October, hoping to lure the tech giant’s expansion, which it said could be worth US$5 billion. In mid-January, 20 cities were shortlisted, including Toronto, which proactively released its 200-page bid book last October. The only Pacific time zone bidder on the list was Los Angeles. 

The Vancouver Economic Commission-led bid book, under the title “Vancouver We Are Home,” said software engineers work for half the price of the Seattle market (US$60,107/year vs. $US$113,906/year), the Canadian loonie tends to be cheaper than the American greenback, and Canada’s medicare system means health care costs are less for employers. The health care costs alone would save US$6 billion over a decade for 50,000 employees, the bid book said, “bringing total savings to USD$34 billion.” 

The bid was handicapped from the start by being too close to Seattle, but the bid book tried to turn that weakness into a strength.

“Seattle and Vancouver are in the same time zone and located only 140 flight miles apart; that’s 2,300 flight miles closer than New York. Not only does proximity provide strategic advantages in terms of collaboration and information flow, but there are also financial and environmental benefits that come with operating 45 minutes apart – a clear benefit for any organization aiming for a triple bottom-line.”

Ironically, both New York City and neighbouring Newark, N.J. made it to the 20-city shortlist. 

The VEC bid boasted that Vancouver’s “DNA is comprised of similar cultures and values as Seattle,” such as environmentalism and left-wing politics. Like Seattle, it said, one can “ski, surf and savasana [yoga’s corpse pose] all in one day.” It included three photographs of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and a letter addressed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. 

A map suggested Amazon could look for office space at downtown’s to-be-redeveloped Main Post Office, Surrey Central, Broadway Tech Centre and/or an area in North Richmond near River Rock Casino Resort, an area the bid book referred to euphemstically as “Riverside Rendezvous.”

It said the region is already home to tech companies like Microsoft, Boeing (analytics lab), Cisco, Electronic Arts, GE, Intel, and SAP — as well as homegrown companies Slack, Hootsuite, Avigilon, Bardel, D-Wave, Lululemon Athletica and Vision Critical.

The Vancouver bid emphasized outdoor recreation.

Where would all the workers live? The bid book boasted the NDP’s promised 114,000 affordable units in B.C. over 10 years would help in the long run. In the short-term? The suburbs.

“Measures are in place to tackle housing affordability concerns. Despite the high prices in the downtown core, we are fortunate to have a wide variety of affordable housing options all within a 25-minute radius of our top sites for Amazon HQ2.”

The only section containing substantial censorship was about provincial incentives. Existing digital and production tax credits were offered, but it is not known what the NDP government was offering, except for the visible mention of  “a dedicated B.C. Provincial Nominee Program Solution for Amazon” to fast-track migration. 

The bid book stressed B.C.’s network of universities and colleges, but made special mention of foreign students and migration from Asia. In 2015-2016, 19,875 B.C university students were from China, more than India, U.S., Japan and South Korea combined. 

“The Chinese student population in BC increased by 17% annually between 2010 and 2015. The Asian student population also views Vancouver as a long-term home. 43% of Vancouver residents have Asian heritage, making it the most Asian city outside of Asia. Vancouver’s strong Asian ties are critical as Amazon continues to deepen its business throughout this region and works to ensure its talent can support growth in these key markets.”

Last November, Amazon announced it would double its Vancouver workforce to 2,000 by 2020. It is not clear whether the secret tax incentives in the HQ2 bid book played any role. 

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Vancouver-Amazon-HQ2-Proposal-Feb-2018.pdf by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin  Vancouver, Surrey and Richmond tried to

Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s NDP government wants to seize $13 million worth of properties from a company and its principals that the United States government temporarily branded a significant transnational criminal organization.

In B.C. Supreme Court filings on Feb. 14, the Director of Civil Forfeiture alleges that PacNet Services engaged in “unlawful predatory mail-fraud schemes, primarily targeting the elderly and vulnerable.” The court documents further charge PacNet processed millions of payments worth hundreds of millions of dollars from tens of thousands of victims.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and the defendants have not filed a response. A story last Nov. 22 in the Irish Times said the company laid-off 120 people, including 20 at its Shannon, Ireland office. “We were never involved in criminal activities,” PacNet executive Gerry Humphreys told the newspaper.

B.C. government wants to seize PacNet founder Rosanne Day’s Dunbar house (BC Assessment)

On Sept. 22, 2016, the Office of Foreign Assets Control blacklisted PacNet. Last August, it lifted the designation. PacNet was among several companies that received a full corporate tax break on international financial transactions, with the former BC Liberal government’s blessing. The new NDP government announced last October that it was eliminating the AdvantageBC scheme, which was run by ex-BC Liberal Finance Minister Colin Hansen.

The properties the government wants to seize and re-sell range from Boundary Bay beachfront to 10 acres on Keats Island and a waterfront house and boat dock on the Sunshine Coast.

The B.C. government applied Feb. 14 to freeze bank accounts and real estate, such as founder Rosanne Phyllis Day’s West 22nd Avenue home in Vancouver, worth more than $4.5 million, and a beachfront house on Centennial Parkway in Delta, worth $3.375 million. The Delta house is registered to the beneficiary of a trust that owns 30% of PacNet shares, James Ripplinger and his wife, Ivana.

The seizure application also lists a $1.94 million Keith Road house in West Vancouver that is registered to PacNet officer Ruth Hilda Rose Ferlow and her husband Peter Ferlow. It is, coincidentally, near a house in the name of Teresa Sharp, the wife of Frederick L. Sharp, who is under investigation for his involvement in companies related to the Mossack Fonseca law firm that were exposed in the Panama Papers leak.

The lawsuit says the Vancouver Police Department began investigating in October 2016, shortly after the U.S. action. The court filings allege that PacNet engaged in “unlawful predatory mail-fraud schemes, primarily targeting the elderly and vulnerable.”

The court application says that Det. Dwain Mah’s probe into fraudulent direct mail schemes targeting elderly and vulnerable Canadian residents found “since at least 1997, PacNet has provided cheque processing services for companies acting as fronts for individuals and organizations perpetrating mass-mailed fraudulent solicitations.”

PacNet was incorporated in 1994 by Rosanne Day at 595 Howe Street, two blocks south of the Robson Square Law Courts complex. It had been on the police radar for quite some time.

“For nearly two decades, PacNet has repeatedly been contacted by law enforcement and regulators in relation to civil and criminal fraud proceedings against its customers, and that PacNet has been notified on multiple occasions that its customers are engaged in fraudulent mass-mailings and in certain cases, PacNet has continued to facilitate the mail fraud despite this notice,” the court document said.

In 2011, VPD investigated a company involved with opening envelopes and removing payment called International Caging Services Ltd. Detectives learned that ICS routed all cheques, money orders and credit card payments from direct mail solicitations to PacNet for processing.

The court filing said it uncovered phoney direct mail prize schemes and Maria Duval schemes, “which falsely represent that a person has psychic or other supernatural powers and will use those abilities to improve a victim’s financial or emotional situation.”

“In both schemes, the solicitations appear to be personalized through the repeated use of a consumer’s name when, in reality, the consumer’s name was obtained from a commercially available mailing list. The recipients are generally asked to pay between $10 and $50 to obtain their prize or psychic service. The victims, who are often elderly, receiving nothing in return for their payment, other than an increased number of similar solicitations and/or a worthless trinket.”

The court filing says that Canada’s financial transactions watchdog was tipped-off by TD Canada Trust shortly after the U.S. government edict. Rosanne Day issued a $425,000 bank draft to husband Gordon Day from a TD Canada Trust account on Sept. 25, 2016. On Sept. 26, 2016, Gordon Day deposited the sum into a new Scotiabank account.

“TD Canada Trust considers this a suspicious transaction and accordingly filed a report with (FINTRAC).”

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PacNet Application Feb142018 by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin British Columbia’s NDP government wants to

Bob Mackin

The cost of the new Pattullo Bridge is pegged at $1.6 billion, according to a mid-October briefing note to the NDP minister responsible for TransLink.

Premier John Horgan, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson will green light the New Westminster-to-Surrey spanner on Feb. 16. They are expected to announce the government, not TransLink, will be responsible for replacing the decaying 80-year-old bridge. A source close to the project also told theBreaker that the contract to build the new bridge is expected to include a community benefits clause that may require, among other things, a quota of aboriginal apprentices.

Aritst’s rendering of the new Pattullo Bridge (TransLink)

The briefing note, obtained by theBreaker under the freedom of information law, was written after the government received TransLink’s business case for the new four-lane bridge, which would be expandable to six lanes. Jan. 1, 2023 would be the target for opening.

“The Mayors’ Vision indicated that the bridge replacement would cost approximately $980 million,” said the briefing note to Robinson. “TransLink currently estimates the Pattullo Bridge replacement would cost approximately $1.6 billion.”

The project is not eligible for funding from the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, but TransLink was exploring options with the federal infrastructure bank and Trade Transportation Corridor Initiative. Horgan and Trevena threw TransLink a curveball last summer when they kept a campaign promise and abolished tolls on the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges.

“TransLink is also looking for a subsidy to replace the tolls that were eliminated Sept. 1,” said the briefing note. “The transit authority had been counting on tolls to pay for up to two-thirds of the cost of the new Pattullo, which was estimated at about $1 billion in 2014. The amount of the subsidy has not been determined.”

Late last year, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan was voted to replace Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson as chair of the Mayors’ Council and a member of the TransLink board of directors. Corrigan suggested the Pattullo be the top priority, before TransLink builds the Broadway subway or Surrey light rail transit.

The cost estimates for the two rail projects were censored from the documents provided to theBreaker. However, one of the briefing notes was created Dec. 14 and quotes a Dec. 13 story by theBreaker about the ongoing cost secrecy.

Under the heading “Escalating Costs,” an aide to Robinson summarized theBreaker story that was headlined  “Mayors got secret update last year on TransLink mega project costs, but kept public in the dark,”

“The story is based on internal documents released through FOI that suggest the estimated costs for the megaprojects have risen significantly. Final costs will not be determined until TransLink submits its final business cases and will be shared publicly when they are approved (estimated late February).”

In 2014, the Surrey project was estimated at $2.21 billion and Broadway $1.98 billion. TransLink warned that costs have increased due to rising costs of property, labour, materials and equipment. 

A briefing note said that $300,000 is being spent on so-called due diligence panels of handpicked experts who were hired to review TransLink’s business cases. The panels were struck in January 2017 to review what is officially called the Surrey L Line and the Millennium Line Broadway Extension.

“The focus of each panel was to review current alignment, geotechnical considerations, design and methods of construction; property acquisition; costs estimates; and formation and content of business case in relation to Treasury Board expectations,” the briefing note said.

Former SNC-Lavalin executive vice-president James Burke and ex-B.C. Deputy Finance Minister Peter Milburn are on both panels. Engineer Les Elliott is the third member of the Surrey panel, while veteran SkyTrain construction engineer and transit tunnelling specialist Jeff Hewitt are on the Broadway panel.

Their recommendations were censored from the briefing notes.

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GCP-2017-74550-Mackin.pdf by BobMackin on Scribd

Bob Mackin The cost of the new Pattullo

Bob Mackin

Not only has the Trans-Rockies tarsands vs. tannin trade tiff pitted one province’s NDP government against another, but siblings are on opposing sides of the dispute. 

Alberta pro-pipeline Premier Rachel Notley’s executive assistant Parm Kahlon is the sister of rookie Delta North NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon, who became Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism and Sport under B.C. anti-pipeline Premier John Horgan last July.

Ravi (right) and Parm Kahlon (Twitter)

Parm Kahlon was a constituency assistant for NDP MLAs Spencer Chandra Herbert, Judy Darcy and Sue Hammell until 2015 when she moved to Edmonton to join the “Notley Crue.” 

By email, she told theBreaker it’s not the first time that she has disagreed with Ravi, but it’s not personal. She still loves and respects him.

“We have a very understanding family and everything is fine at home,” Parm Kahlon wrote.

In an interview, Ravi Kahlon said: “She’s a strong independent-minded person and I love her for it. For me, we disagree on various issues along the way, this is just another one. When we’re together it’s not something we contentiously debate. We try to spend time when we’re together not talking about politics, but other things.”

Meanwhile, the B.C. Finance Ministry told theBreaker that the B.C. government spent “under $40,000” on a B.C. Family Day weekend ad campaign promoting B.C. wine to counter Notley’s order to end B.C. wine imports. Last year, B.C. exported $70 million of wine to the Wild Rose province.  

Ad agency Grey Vancouver created the “Together, let’s support B.C. wine” print ad that depicts three standing corkscrews — which appear similar to Ikea’s Idealisk model — crossing levers, as if they’re holding hands.  

“This weekend, buy some B.C. wine and raise a glass to protecting B.C.’s coast,” said the copy at bottom of the full-page Vancouver Sun ad on Feb. 10. 

Grey Vancouver was among 15 advertising and polling companies that were prequalified late last year by the B.C. government for advertising contracts. 

theBreaker had asked for two days for the name of the contractor and the budget for the campaign, but the Finance Ministry’s communications office didn’t respond until 6:18 p.m. on Feb. 14. Coincidentally, there were less than two hours left until the closing of the polls in the “wine country” by-election. Quails’ Gate winery’s Ben Stewart, the former BC Liberal MLA and Beijing trade envoy, was seeking a comeback in the Kelowna West seat vacated by ex-premier Christy Clark last summer.  

Meanwhile, Notley upped the ante in her bid to thwart Horgan’s bid to foil the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. Her staff launched a “Keep Canada Working” social media campaign. and she heads a 19-person “Market Access Task Force” that includes her chief of staff, Nathan Rotman, three cabinet ministers and six deputy ministers. Among the six-pack is her climate change deputy, Eric Denhoff, who was a mandarin during NDP Premier Mike Harcourt’s administration in the 1990s. Denhoff was appointed to head B.C. Transit and later chaired SNC-Lavalin’s B.C. division. His LinkedIn profile omits mention of his work with scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin and his later work with TransCanada Pipelines.

Other bigwigs on Notley’s board are: ex-New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna, ex-Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan, Suncor lobbyist Ginny Flood, and Janet Annesley, vice-president of Li Ka-shing’s Husky.

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Bob Mackin Not only has the Trans-Rockies tarsands

Terrance Kosikar was a medic who treated luger Nodar Kumaritashvili on the opening day of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at the Whistler Sliding Centre. The Georgian died later of his injuries, casting a pall over the Games. Kosikar suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but now campaigns for awareness and solutions. On Feb. 13, he will lead a quest to flip a 200-kilogram tire up Blackcomb Mountain to aid Camp My Way, the wilderness program he founded to help first responders overcome PTSD. theBreaker spoke with Kosikar about his struggles. This is the second of two parts. Read part one here.

Bob Mackin 

Almost three months after he lost his job at the Whistler Sliding Centre, Terrance Kosikar wrote a desperate email in late March 2012 to John Furlong. 

Track medic Kosikar told Furlong that the aftermath of Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death on the opening day of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics plunged him into depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and painkiller addiction. He said his family was on the verge of homelessness.

Kosikar at the Whistler Olympic Plaza monument to Kumaritashvili (Mackin)

Furlong was no longer the chief executive for the 2010 Games organizing committee, known as VANOC. He finished his job and joined several corporate boards, but remained involved with Canada’s Olympic scene as chair of Own The Podium, the federal funding agency connected to the Canadian Olympic Committee. Furlong had been under fire a year earlier when CBC’s Fifth Estate investigated the Feb. 12, 2010 tragedy. CBC revealed Furlong was worried, almost a year before the Games, about safety on the $119 million bobsled, luge and skeleton track. Architect Udo Gurgel had complained that athletes were sliding faster than his design calculations. 

“An athlete gets badly injured or worse and I think the case could be made we were warned and did nothing,” Furlong wrote in a March 2009 email to VANOC executives.

Kosikar wrote in his email that he had unsuccessfully warned the venue’s general manager, Craig Lehto, in 2009 about the roofing supported by posts that were erected beside the track before the Games. Kumaritashvili died in the Whistler athletes’ village polyclinic after he was catapulted from his sled and struck one of those posts at 136 km-h in a training session. 

“I just want my life and health back …(and food back in the fridge),” Kosikar wrote to Furlong. “Please help, I remember we met when I asked you to have those black ribbons made. You smiled and told me if there was anything I ever needed contact you… well… I’m now contacting you. I had the red mohawk with the Canadian leaf shaved in my head…(if that rings a bell).”

Read Terrance Kosikar’s correspondence from Terry Wright of VANOC. Click here. 

Instead of a reply from Furlong, it was Terry Wright, the VANOC executive vice-president who remained involved in the wind-down of the organizing committee’s operations. Wright and VANOC lawyer Dorothy Byrne met with Kosikar in April 2012.

“Your candour and willingness to share some clearly painful observations about your past and the accident was admirable,” said Wright in a May 7, 2012 letter to Kosikar. “While the accident touched the lives of many, some have lived it much more profoundly and your close involvement with the track and Nodar makes you one of the closest, to be sure. This was undoubtedly a very difficult period in your life and these are not easy subjects to discuss at any time and particularly now given your circumstances.

“It occurs to us that your four years of dedicated experience at the track, both before and after the 2010 Games, could provide useful insights to the facility safety audit that is currently underway. We all want the final outcome of the tragedy on February 12th, 2010 to be the safest environment. We need your input and perspective to help ensure this outcome. 

VANOC CEO John Furlong (left) and the IOC’s Rene Fasel during a pre-Games inspection of the Whistler Sliding Centre. (VANOC)

“I hope you will agree that a track that has been thoroughly audited for safety is perhaps the best legacy we can all leave from our experiences there. We respectfully ask you to please consider whether you could do this, recognizing that the audit is expected to be completed soon.”

Kosikar said Wright agreed to pay him $15,000 to be part of the safety audit team ordered by the Coroners Service of B.C. in the October 2010 report on the incident. Kosikar said he could have asked for more money, but he wanted to help make the sliding centre safe, so there would never be a repeat of Feb. 12, 2010. He was expecting VANOC to send him to Calgary on a regular basis to work on the project, but was involved in only one conference call in late May 2012.

Wright declined to comment for this story.

After the Games, VANOC raised $25,000 from the auction of a Games podium to give the Kumaritashvili family until the $150,000 payout from the VANOC insurance policy. The crash was ruled an accident. There were no lawsuits or criminal charges. The coroner did not schedule an inquest hearing. 

In April 2012, Kosikar’s life had taken another turn for the worse. His claim for worker’s compensation was denied. 

Kosikar had waited until just before Christmas 2011, nearly two years after the crash, to file with WorkSafeBC. The April 2012 denial letter said he told a case manager that he did not apply within the one-year window because he feared it would be detrimental to his career as a firefighter, ski patroller and medic. He filed the application four days after he was on paid suspension pending termination, after learning that a co-worker who was also on-scene Feb. 12, 2010 had successfully qualified for PTSD compensation.

VANOC’s Wright.

The WorkSafeBC denial letter said that statements from two unnamed co-workers indicated Kosikar did not complain of having trouble coping with the aftermath. One of them said that the application was a direct result of being suspended from work, being short of cash and learning that a co-worker had received WorkSafeBC benefits. 

The denial letter said Whistler Sport Legacies Society, the post-Olympics operator of the Whistler Sliding Centre, suspended Kosikar Dec. 18, 2011 for calling in late and sick due to drug withdrawal, being difficult to work with and making threats to co-workers.

WorkSafeBC found no special circumstances that precluded Kosikar from claiming psychological injuries sooner. “Rather, you made a conscious choice based on your belief that it was not in your best interest to claim at the time,” said the letter.

The board made the decision to extend Kosikar’s clinical counselling sessions with Dr. MacDonald “as a measure of support for you separate now from the individual claim.”

In a reply letter, Kosikar said not all of his superiors had been interviewed, including general manager Tracy Seitz. 

Read Terrance Kosikar’s correspondence with WorkSafeBC. Click here. 

“It was not until my boss [Seitz] advised me to get the help and I may have it, that I was aware it was an injury and I could file for it,” Kosikar wrote in reply. “I was only a volunteer fireman and ski patroller and we don’t sit around all day talking about injuries and conditions.” 

Kosikar told theBreaker that he had been warned by a VANOC official immediately after Kumaritashvili’s death not to speak of the crash to anyone. 

Seitz, who succeeded Lehto as the venue’s general manager, did not respond for comment. Whistler Sport Legacies’ spokeswoman Silke Jeltsch refused to arrange an interview, because theBreaker was inquiring about a “personnel matter.”

Kosikar appealed for more help from VANOC, to either intervene with WorkSafeBC or help him otherwise financially. 

VANOC lawyer Gabriel Somjen of Borden Ladner Gervais turned down his request to fund a book about his ordeal in a June 20, 2014 letter. VANOC was prepared “on a without prejudice basis and without any admission of liability” to engage Back in Motion, a third-party WorkSafeBC contractor, to provide him with a counselling and retraining program. The counselling would be in Vancouver, vocational training in Squamish or Whistler. 

“This gratuitous offer does not in any way preclude you from taking whatever steps you may with to take in terms of disclosing your concerns publicly, nor is VANOC asking for any form of release,” Somjen wrote.

Georgia’s Olympic team at the Vancouver 2010 opening ceremony, hours after Nodar Kumaritashvili’s death. (Brian Howell)

Kosikar responded the next week, that, despite the safety audit “I insist that the protocols and standards that I suggested at that meeting are still not wholly implemented to ensure future safety. WCB were aware that certain workers received support and others did not. Being the actual first responder and having my claim denied impacted me deeply.

“As evident from all of my communications, my aim is to be a positive contributor to the community and get back to work and life as normal.” 

Kosikar accepted the VANOC offer, but it was a catch 22. Without further VANOC funding, he was unable to afford accommodation in Vancouver, so he did not attend the counselling sessions.

It was the middle of a difficult year that would only get worse for Kosikar. He was on the mend from breaking his pelvis while performing at women’s night in a Whistler bar. He feared he would never walk again. By the end of the year, he had relapsed and was living on the streets of the Downtown Eastside. He said he robbed a heroin dealer, drove the Stanley Park Causeway to get away and stopped suddenly on the Lions Gate Bridge. There, he impulsively decided that he wanted to jump to his death. With the vehicle running, he leaped over the sidewalk barrier, but had second thoughts when he noticed the distance to the water. He carried on for the long drive to his cabin in Seton Portage, near Lillooet

Read Terrance Kosikar’s correspondence with a VANOC lawyer. Click here. 

“I don’t remember getting to my cabin. I remember waking up in my cabin, shaking, shivering, smelling of death,” he said.

He could no longer look at people, because he could no longer stand himself. So he learned to survive in the wilderness around his cabin. It was all he had. 

“That’s where I found myself.”

He also found a 200-kilogram tractor tire. 

“I wanted to get strong, start exercising. I wanted to show all the people who put a knife in my back and a foot in my ass, I wanted to show them that who I really am, what I’m capable of. I just needed a little bit of help.” 

So he meditated, hugged trees, watched deer and listened to songbirds. Looking back, Kosikar said that he cannot be ashamed of his past mistakes, but must take responsibility, accountability and seek forgiveness.

“I never felt better in my entire life, totally drug free, totally natural, no cell phones, no doctors, no psychologists, I had to do it myself,” he said. “I was dreaming again, I was sleeping again. I couldn’t be more excited than to wake up the next morning and go get some more exercise, get out into the mountains, reconnect with myself and find a higher power.” 

NDP cabinet minister Shane Simpson helps Terrance Kosikar flip a tire by the Vancouver Olympic Cauldron on Feb. 10, 2018. (Mackin)

Stacy Wilson met Kosikar in 2012, when he was “in a fairly dark place, in desperate need of treatment.” Kosikar’s loved ones reached out to Wilson’s Together We Can Addiction Recovery and Education Society for help.

Despite the PTSD and addiction and a relapse in 2014, executive director Wilson said, Kosikar maintained a unique sense of charisma and determination.

“He automatically makes an impact. The nature of his bottom back in 2012 was fairly significant, so it’s professional experiences and personal experiences that led him down a very dark path,” Wilson said. 

“When an individual is completely broken, the irony is they stand the greatest chance of success. He was very teachable when he did come into treatment. He absorbed a lot of information, his desire was there, he showed perseverance, he showed willingness. Unfortunately with the nature of addiction it’s not always a linear path to success.”

Wilson estimated that 70% of Together We Can’s clientele has suffered from PTSD of varying degrees, including first responders and military veterans who served multiple tours of duty. For some of them, PTSD “is so debilitating, that you’d be aghast,” Wilson said.

Mental health issues were not as understood or as publicized in the mainstream in 2010 when Kosikar’s PTSD was triggered. Wilson is “cautiously optimistic” with the culture shift.

“There is a lot more awareness out there, but there is a lot more work to be done to actually provide practical and tangible solutions for people to access,” he said. “We’re better than we were, but we’ve got a long way to go.” 

It is a cold, sunny Saturday morning, two days before the eighth anniversary of the day Kumaritashvili lost his life and Kosikar began to lose control of his. Kosikar and his supporters from Together We Can, many of them in treatment for addiction and PTSD, gather beneath the Olympic cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza. Kosikar carries the flag of Georgia on a long tree branch, in memory of the 21-year-old luger he tried to save.  

Kosikar is joined by Shane Simpson, the NDP’s Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, in exercises, including a group chant of Kosikar’s motto: “It’s Not Weak to Speak.” 

Simpson joins Kosikar for the first few flips of that 200 kg tire to launch a 24-hour marathon of strength around the Stanley Park Seawall to aid Camp My Way.

“Terrance has picked a pretty unique way to raise awareness around that and have people pay attention to this issue,” said Simpson, the NDP MLA for Vancouver Hastings.

Listen to Terrance Kosikar and Shane Simpson on Podcast. Click here and go to the 10:30 mark. 

“He’s done a remarkable job in raising awareness and helping inform the debate around this. He catches people’s attention because of what he does, but then he really articulates really well what the issue is. He built on that with the work he’s done with the camp.”

In March 2017, Simpson held the labour portfolio in the NDP shadow cabinet and tabled a private member’s bill to add a PTSD-related presumptive clause to the Workers’ Compensation Act. That would mean if a first responder suffered PTSD, it would be automatically deemed an occupational injury. Alberta and Manitoba have such a presumptive clause and Ontario and New Brunswick intend to follow.

If that presumptive clause had existed in 2010, Kosikar would have been eligible for help relatively quickly and he would have been on the road to recovery.

Kosikar: “I wanted to show… who I really am, what I’m capable of. I just needed a little bit of help.” 

“This will end the hurdles around WorkSafeBC claims and the related unacceptable delays that too many of these public servants who need support are facing today,” Simpson told the Legislature. “First responders — including police officers, firefighters, paramedics, 9-1-1 dispatchers, sheriffs and corrections officers — suffer PTSD at more than double the rate of the general population.”

Simpson pointed to the unanimous adoption of a presumptive clause for firefighters who suffered work-related cancer, and suggested the BC Liberals do the same for first responders who suffer PTSD. 

Kosikar meditating at his cabin near Lillooet, B.C. (Joern Rohde)

The bill did not pass, but the NDP came to power last July. Simpson told theBreaker that Labour Minister Harry Bains is preparing legislation. 

“It’s a priority for our government, to deal with the question of PTSD and a presumptive clause for first responders, in particular,” Simpson said. “I’m very hopeful we’ll be able to take some meaningful action on that that this year.” 

The Tema Conter Memorial Trust said it received reports of 56 suicides by public safety professionals across Canada in 2017 — 16 of the victims were paramedics and 16 were police officers. The death toll is less than the 68 in each of the previous two years, but more than the 48 reported in 2014. Already, in 2018, says that two paramedics have taken their lives.

Rather than turning on a TV or clicking on a mobile phone app to watch the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, Kosikar will be on the slopes of Blackcomb Mountain on Feb. 13, rolling that tire in memory of Kumaritashvili and the first responders who lost their battle with PTSD.

This is no Sisyphean stunt. Kosikar’s long-term goal is to make the land around his Seton Portage cabin, called Camp My Way, a destination retreat where PTSD-affected first responders can get away from the sirens and get into the serenity. He’s joining a larger movement that wants to stop the stigma of PTSD and increase awareness of the warning signs, so that first responders can take a necessary, preventive time out before it’s too late. 

Ultimately, the biggest problem wasn’t that Kosikar didn’t get immediate help on Feb. 12, 2010, he said. It was that he wasn’t given the know-how before he started the job. “Why didn’t WorkSafeBC or any of the British Columbia Justice Institute training with fire-rescue or ski patrol — why wasn’t self-care, self-awareness [taught]?” Kosikar asked. “Why is there not a chapter on post-traumatic stress disorder?

“I want to make it clear, this a wrong diagnosis to be calling post-traumatic stress a disorder. Because it’s not a disorder. It’s an injury.”

Anyone feeling distress can call 9-1-1, the 24-hour crisis line (1-800-SUICIDE in Canada; 1-800-273-TALK in the United States) or visit a hospital emergency room near you. People are ready to help.

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Terrance Kosikar was a medic who treated

Eight years ago, on Feb. 12, 2010, tragedy enveloped the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Luger Nodar Kumaritashvili of Georgia crashed in the last training session at the Whistler Sliding Centre, on the mega-event’s opening day. The 21-year-old was not the only victim. Terrance Kosikar, the medic who rushed to treat him, suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

After years of battling depression and addiction, Kosikar campaigns for awareness and solutions to PTSD. He dreams of making Camp My Way near Lillooet, B.C. a sanctuary for first responders seeking to overcome PTSD. He has an ally in Victoria. NDP cabinet minister Shane Simpson said the government is planning to cut red tape for first responders who suffer PTSD and need worker’s compensation, after a 2017 attempt was not supported by the former BC Liberal government.

On this edition, host Bob Mackin also examines the tarnished legacy of Vancouver 2010 and wonders why Calgary would want to bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics. Plus news headlines from around the Korean peninsula (host of the 2018 Winter Games) and the Pacific Northwest. 

Listen to Podcast to learn how you can get your very own copy of Mackin’s Red Mittens & Red Ink: The Vancouver Olympics e-book for free. 

Support for as low as $2 a month on Patreon. Find out how. Click here. Podcast Podcast Podcast: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of the Five-Ring Circus

Eight years ago, on Feb. 12, 2010,

Terrance Kosikar was a medic who treated luger Nodar Kumaritashvili on the opening day of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at the Whistler Sliding Centre. The Georgian died later of his injuries, casting a pall over the Games. Kosikar suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but now campaigns for awareness and solutions. On Feb. 10, he will begin a 24-hour, 24-kilometre quest to flip a 200-kilogram tire in Stanley Park to aid Camp My Way, the wilderness program he founded to help first responders overcome PTSD. He will also flip the tire up Blackcomb Mountain beginning Feb. 13. theBreaker spoke with Kosikar about his struggles. This is the first of two parts. Read part 2, click here. 

Bob Mackin

While the Olympic flame was jogged through the streets of downtown Vancouver on February 12, 2010, ski jumpers in the Callaghan Valley were the first to compete in the 21st Olympic Winter Games. 

Just beyond Whistler Village, on the slopes of Blackcomb Mountain, lugers maneuvered the tricky, extreme conditions of the Whistler Sliding Centre to train for the next evening’s heats. 

Terrance Kosikar in Whistler Olympic Plaza (Mackin)

At 10:48 a.m., it was Nodar Kumaritashvili’s turn. “Luge in track,” were the words that came across medic Terrance Kosikar’s walkie-talkie.

The 21-year-old dreamed of finishing in the top five, if not on the podium. He was looking forward to a hero’s welcome in his hometown, Bakuriani, Georgia. The night before his last run, an anxious Kumaritashvili phoned his father David, an ex-Soviet Union youth luge champion, for advice. The track was marketed as the world’s fastest, and many athletes had reservations. Kumaritashvili had crashed twice during the 20 runs he took in November 2009, but was not seriously hurt. There were 75 other crashes during that session, with concussions among the most common injuries.

All seemed normal as Kumaritashvili, in the number 30 bib, made it through corner 12 and the treacherous stretch dubbed 50-50. Then something went horribly wrong in corner 16. He hit the roof and careened into the short wall. That was when Kosikar — in a standard-issue blue VANOC jacket, red first aid vest and not-so-standard dyed red mohawk — jumped into action.

“Immediately, I started running towards the exit of 16, at that point is when I witnessed this warrior exit the track and collide with a solid steel post,” recalled Kosikar, in an exclusive interview with theBreaker.

The 44-year-old said the sound of Kumaritashvili’s helmet striking the post was the worst thing he had ever heard.

He remembers shouting, into his walkie-talkie “10-80, 10-80 [the track’s code for injured athlete], code 3, corner 16!”

Kumaritashvili had landed under the track, in a six-foot trench, with his eyes wide open, but he was not breathing. Kosikar slipped a mask on his face and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until ambulance paramedics arrived. The athlete was loaded into the vehicle, and Kosikar was part of a team that desperately tried to keep him alive. The blunt force trauma to his head was too much to overcome, and he was pronounced dead at the athletes’ village polyclinic within an hour.

“There was nothing more that we could do to help bring this kid back,” he sighed.

Kosikar said he washed his hands and changed his bloodied clothes before being summoned with other polyclinic staff to a meeting. A suited man from VANOC, that he had never seen before or since, issued a blunt order: “We don’t talk about this to nobody. no media, no friends, no co-workers, no family. Nothing.”

Kosikar rode back to the Whistler Sliding Centre in an unmarked police car, to a staff meeting in the VIP tent. Venue general manager Craig Lehto thanked everyone for doing their best amid the tragedy and urged them to work together. The Olympics were just beginning. The show must go on.

Kosikar: “I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was afraid to look at people.”

Kosikar, who had spent his teens and twenties in and out of gangs and jails, took the dual messages of silence and perseverance seriously. He wasn’t prepared for what would happen.

“I wasn’t sleeping at night, I had to show up for work the next day, I had to respond to crash after crash,” he recounted. “As I’m responding to each fo the crashes, my nerves were uncontrollable, the sights and sounds that I heard of athletes’ families on scene screaming, the sirens, the overwhelming amount of guilt that set in for me became actually completely unbearable, because I took responsibility, because I knew this was easily something that could’ve been prevented. I felt that because I kept my mouth shut, I felt that this was my fault. This was the feeling that I didn’t have control of.

“I couldn’t bear with the thoughts and uncontrollable amount of everything all at once, not understanding why.”

A few days later, he said, a VANOC doctor gave him her business card. She suggested briefly, as they walked in opposite directions at the track, that he call her if he wanted to talk. Kosikar said that was the only time during the Games that anyone offered him help. He had a job to do, the world was watching and was already warned not to talk to anyone. So he didn’t make the call.

When Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse won a surprise bobsleigh duo gold medal for the host country on Feb. 24, Kosikar grabbed a Canadian flag and ran across the track in celebration. Kosikar said that an hour later, he left the venue to acquire more than an ounce of cocaine. He wanted to overdose and die.

A week later, after the Games had ended, his family doctor diagnosed him with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and prescribed various anti-psychotic, sleeping and pain pills. The doctor referred Kosikar to a psychologist, but he didn’t go. The drugs and the VANOC warning were enough to keep it all to himself.

It was the early stages of a nearly five-year journey to hell and back that would include four stops at detox centres, four stops in mental health facilities, and two in treatment centres.

He ultimately landed in the Downtown Eastside, where he was slowly killing himself. “I was in such a psychosis and such a …,” he paused. “I didn’t know who I was anymore. I was afraid to look at people.”

Kosikar admitted that he did a lot of things wrong in his life, by hurting others and hurting himself. Growing up in Coquitlam, he faced bullying from schoolmates because of his father, who was jailed in Kingston Penitentiary and Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre for criminal harassment. So he fought back. 

“I wanted to be feared, instead of being in fear,” he said. “I wanted to be a badass guy, where people moved away as opposed to coming and taking what I had.”

Kosikar discovered cocaine, broke into houses and nearly beat a man to death, for which he was sentenced to a young offenders’ boot camp. Upon his release, he felt angry with his girlfriend cheating on him and his mother and step-father for moving to Ontario. So he drove with a friend to Los Angeles, fell into the drugs and guns gang lifestyle, and was brutally beaten by a rival. 

Upon returning to Canada, Kosikar needed money to feed his drug habit. Instead of high school, he made hundreds of dollars a night as a male stripper in clubs in Southern Ontario, under the stage name “Jimmy Dean.” More money was to be had in X-rated videos and on stages at nightclubs in New York, Boston and Miami. And more money, meant more cocaine. He emerged from that lifestyle ever so briefly, got married in Georgia, and got a job as a Delta Airlines ground worker. But he lost that job and slipped back into his old ways. 

After a routine 1998 traffic stop for an expired driver’s licence in Cobb County, Ga., police found cocaine in his possession. His plea bargain included deportation to Canada, but not before a harrowing stay in a federal prison while he awaited his transfer. That is where he said he hit rock bottom.

Kosikar in younger days

Kosikar drew a picture of a bird on razor wire, and toothpasted it to the wall and dreamed of moving to the wilderness. It was the only way to preserve his sanity amid the bland meals, the round-the-clock lights and the sounds of other inmates screaming.

“If you cave to the insanity you just become a product of your environment. You have to focus on something,” he said. “I focused on the fantasy of being a respected man in the community, have a family, have a home up in the mountains, I fantasized about the trees and the birds.

“The only thing I could think of was saving someone’s life, [I was] tired of seeing people’s lives taken, I’m tired of the last 15 years, I’m tired of the visions of death, I want to help.” 

Whistler beckons

Kosikar said he eventually moved to Whistler in 2001 and paid the bills by running a porn video website from a rented mansion, claiming $300,000-a-year income. But a new girlfriend and her five-year-old son changed his outlook on life. 

“I felt genuine love for the first time in my life,” he said. “There’s somebody who doesn’t want money, doesn’t want sex, doesn’t want to use me. A kid who knows nothing other than he can respect me for me.”

The boy motivated Kosikar to become a fireman. He didn’t make the cut the first year he applied, and was told he needed on-the-job experience. So he volunteered as a ski patroller on Blackcomb and studied WorkSafeBC manuals. The satisfaction of helping rescue injured skiers and snowboarders “was better than all the 15 years of drugs I’d ever taken, all at once. I felt I had a purpose, I felt I made a difference and I saved someone’s life.”

He became an on-call fireman in Whistler in 2005 and joined the Whistler Sliding Centre two years later. The $119 million venue, which was pegged at $55 million in the bid book, was christened before Christmas 2007 by bobsled pilot Pierre Lueders and brakeman Justin Kripps. Their run caused a collective gasp when the duo caught air and nearly crashed. 

Crashes mounted and flaws in the track became evident, as athletes were treated for broken bones and concussions. After the first sliding season ended and the ice melted, workers arrived with jack hammers to make it safer, he said. But they could only do so much for fear of disrupting the track refrigeration system’s ammonia pipes. 

Kosikar recalls that, in the summer of 2009, workers installed solid steel posts and a roof over parts of the track. Kosikar was told it was for dual purpose: to keep the ice consistent and for the “look of the Games” venue decorations. Kosikar said he approached venue general manager, Craig Lehto, and pleaded with him to rethink the installation of posts so close to where they could be struck by an out of control sled or, even worse, an sledder.

Kosikar said Lehto thanked him and kept walking. Middle managers warned him to say nothing more about the posts if he wanted to keep his job. 

Lueders and Kripps on the Whistler Sliding Centre for the first time in 2007 (VANOC)

“I need my job and I’ve paid my dues to be here, the last thing I wanted to do was lose my job, so I kept my mouth shut and watched them put up these stupid posts,” he said. 

Coroner Tom Pawlowksi’s October 2010 investigation report deemed the cause of death multiple blunt force injuries due to collision with fixed structures. Pawlowski couldn’t conclusively rule out the influence of the shades, but, on a balance of probabilities, found they were not critical. As for the poles: “The padding that was introduced to some of the outside posts after the incident would not have prevented this particular death given the force of the collision, and would have been superfluous had Mr. Kumaritashvili been kept inside the track.”

The Coroners Service of B.C.’s mandate is to find facts, not fault. It chose not to order an inquest hearing into Kumaritashvili’s death.

Lehto, who is now general manager of the Vancouver Convention Centre, was contacted by theBreaker, but refused to comment.

Is PyeongChang prepared?

It can take only one out-of-the-ordinary incident to trigger PTSD, said Dr. Mark Miller, a clinical research psychologist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ National Center for PTSD in Boston.

“They might’ve seen it all, but then something really unusual occurs, something that breaks them out of their current medical mindset about it, can make that particular event traumatic,” Miller said in an interview.

Miller said PTSD researchers are struggling to understand the “interplay of risk factors” such as previous experience, inheritable factors, and developmental factors. It can make a big difference if the right support systems are in place to help the PTSD sufferer overcome. The impacts of a propensity towards substance abuse, as in Kosikar’s case, and actually witnessing the triggering incident cannot be discounted.  

“Usually [first responders] arrive some time after the accident and are able to sort of turn on their training and approach the patient and it’s a case to work on, applying your medical training and you’re going through the routine of providing first aid,” Miller said. “In this case, he witnessed probably a fairly horrific accident and then had to provide the first aid, as the first responder. You imagine he might be… more disturbed by the experience than he would’ve been had he been called in and showed up 30 seconds later, or a minute later.” 

Anyone feeling distress can call 9-1-1, the 24-hour crisis line (1-800-SUICIDE in Canada; 1-800-273-TALK in the United States) or visit a hospital emergency room. People are ready to help. 

Dr. Jack Taunton, who was the chief medical officer for Vancouver 2010, was a pallbearer at the Vancouver memorial service for Kumaritashvili, on the Monday after the fatal crash. The luger’s coach and uncle, Felix Kumaritashvili, was among the mourners. 

Taunton said his department did all it could to prepare for a trauma at the track. In July 2009, during the Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine conference, a mock bobsled crash with disaster scenario actors took place at the Justice Institute in New Westminster. The scenario included a mental health component, he said.

During the Games, Taunton said there were more than two dozen psychologists available to counsel affected first responders at the sliding centre. He said they did 80 treatments for first responders, athletes and officials. 

Kosikar said he was never made aware of that exercise and the post-tragedy counselling was not advertised. There was only that brief encounter with a doctor who flipped him her business card. 

Taunton said he was surprised to hear that Kosikar was not treated. 

“We’ve got to make sure that everybody, including the first responders, know that we’re there for them, they have to take advantage of that,” Taunton said. “We all have to, on both sides of the equation, have to be well-prepared, we have to do a better job in terms of doing a real head count — ‘Are you ok? Are you ok?’ Everybody went through that at the time, but you have to realize, that’s dependent upon that individual stepping forward and saying ‘I could take that, I could use that,’ or ‘I would like to explore that’.”

theBreaker asked the International Olympic Committee about mental health treatment plans and procedures, should any athlete or worker at PyeongChang 2018 need help. The IOC press office said that responsibility falls under the South Korean organizing committee’s medical services program. POCOG spokesperson Jihye Lee did not respond. 

  • In part 2, Kosikar tells theBreaker about hitting rock bottom and reaching out to executives from the Vancouver 2010 Olympics organization. Read part 2. Click here.

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Terrance Kosikar was a medic who treated