Wyoming firefighters say the community is standing behind one of their own facing charges after an accident; now it’s time to put their support into words.
Wyoming Fire Chief Mike Vasey says the firemen are drafting a petition of support for Neil Bain – asking the province to step in – and plan to have it available for people to sign during their popular Bacon Burger sale Father’s Day weekend.
Bain is facing a careless driving charge after the fire truck he was driving to an accident in a snowstorm was part of a multi-vehicle accident on Highway 402 last March. Bain and four other firefighters were hurt and two vehicles were destroyed in the tangle of transports and cars.
Last week, a justice in the provincial offences set a November trial date stunning Bain, his family, their lawyer and the firefighters there to support him. They say the charge may have been politically motivated since local politicians were voicing concern about highway conditions in the winter.
Bain was the only person charged in the accident. A driver who ran into a police car blocking the roadway that night also was not charged.
Bain’s lawyer has indicated he’ll file a challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms claiming abuse of prosecution.
“We have had so much support from the community,” says Vasey. “Now that it (the trial) is going forward, I think public opinion has a lot to do with the charge and the vast majority of people thing it is a ridiculous charge.
“Ninety-eight per cent of people when you tell them what the facts were, they say the charge should have never been laid.”
Vasey says while many local residents are simply concerned for a neighbour who was helping out, the case has far-reaching implications. “The trickle down effect of this could be enormous, by rights we can’t not take the call, but by other rights we have to protect our firemen.”
Vasey says volunteer firefighters are particularly vulnerable. A driving charge like this will affect their personal insurance and could affect their employment as well.
The chief says “when there is something going on 70 per cent of the time it’s because of bad weather…We can’t turn around and say, ‘you have to go into it, you have to help, but be careful because we might charge you.’”
Aside for the wide implications, Vasey says the firefighters know Bain did the best he could in a difficult situation.
“If he was careless I’d be the first one to call him out.. but it was not like it was the first time the guy was driving the truck; he’s a 25-year veteran. Ninety per cent of the time, he was the driver. Neil knows the truck, and he knows how to drive it…He would have done better than probably anyone else in the hall trying to stop the truck…knowing he had three guys in the back.”
The petition will be available at the fire hall June 19 and 20 and afterwards at Plympton-Wyoming Town Hall and online on Facebook.
Vasey says Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey has agreed to present the petition in the Ontario Legislature likely before the trial begins Nov. 23.