Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper says the municipality is standing behind a volunteer firefighter facing a careless driving charge while on duty.
Neil Bain, 62, was charged after a lengthy investigation into the March 25 crash on the 402 which destroyed two fire trucks and injured five volunteer firefighters.
Bain, whose wrist was shattered in the accident, has not returned to his regular day job since the accident.
No other drivers were charged in the multi-vehicle pile up.
Napper says the municipality is paying for a lawyer to defend Bains when he appears in court.
“We wouldn’t defend someone if they had done something wrong under the Highway Traffic Act but he was using every procedure they had,” says Napper.
“I’m really concerned,” says Napper. “You ask a volunteer to go out there and its not like they were going out for a vacation or something, they have to go.
“They were in the middle of an accident and no one else has ever got charged in the middle of an accident,” he adds pointing to an accident a month before where two people lost their lives but no charges were laid.
And the mayor questions the timing of when the volunteer firefighter was charged. Over the summer Napper pressed the new Liberal government about maintainence on the highway. The stretch of road in question had several accidents in the winter of 2013 and 2014 and is the only portion of the road which is concrete.
Napper is concerned the charge may have been politically motivated. “It’s convienent for the province, after I sent my letter in, to charge him; there is nothing to investigate, careless driving. That’s not the case I don’t think.”
Meantime, Fire Chief Mike Vasey, who was vocal in his concerns when the charges came to light, says he’s not blaming the local OPP officers for the charge against the volunteer.
“We do not feel that the local OPP detachment wanted to single out this firefighter from all of the other drivers involved in that particular accident,” wrote Vasey in a letter to the editor. “Our department has and always will work side by side with the OPP and we know that they will continue to have their eyes out for us, as we will for them.”
In some high profile cases, the police investigate and present evidence to the Crown Attorney who decides whether a charge is laid.
Vasey doesn’t want the public to condemn the OPP adding he regrets “they have been put in the middle of this unfortunate situation.
“On behalf of Wyoming Fire Department, I want to clarify that our stand on the careless driving charge against one of our firefighters remains that the order came from further up.”
He adds if the public wants to voice their concern about the charges, they should direct their comments to Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey.