Friday, 17 July 2009

Strange death in Montréal, Canada

Falling concrete kills woman at Peel St. sushi bar

Victim was celebrating birthday with her husband

MONTRÉAL, July 17, 2009 - One minute Thursday night, a couple was quietly celebrating a birthday inside the Mikasa Sushi Bar on Peel St.; the next minute, a concrete slab crashed through the glass skylight above them, killing the 33-year-old woman instantly.
Her husband of two years, also 33, lay next to her lifeless body screaming, “Ma femme! Ma femme! Stay with me!”
He pleaded for help, but other diners and staff were paralyzed with shock. Minutes later, sobbing and screaming, the man was loaded into an ambulance, his right hand wrapped in a blood-soaked napkin, two single tracks of blood running down his cheek.
An emergency-room nurse at the Montreal General Hospital said the man was brought into the hospital covered in his wife’s blood. “It was everywhere.”
She said the man, who sustained serious injuries to his right hand, was in a secluded room in the ER surrounded by family.
“Her birthday was Monday, that’s what they were celebrating,” said the nurse, who spoke on condition that her name not be published. The concrete panel from the 18th floor of the Marriott Residence Inn crashed through the sloping glass ceiling of the restaurant, which lies directly below at street level, and hit the woman “directly” – while she was seated at her table, said Montreal police Constable Olivier Lapointe.
Urgences Santé ambulance technicians determined that the woman could not be saved, Lapointe said.
Her body was left at the table where she died until a little after 9 p.m., when the coroner arrived. Lapointe wouldn’t disclose the couple’s name, nor would the nurse who spoke to The Gazette. Stunned bystanders milled beyond the police tape that blocked off the sidewalk and street in front of the building. Glass and other debris, including what appeared to the the base of a dining table, were on the sidewalk. Police had converged on the scene in patrol cars and on bicycles and Segways.
“At first view,” police are considering the death accidental, Lapointe said after investigators emerged from the hotel.
From the gap left on the building’s facade, the slab appeared to have been about one metre wide and two metres long.
Firefighters were examining the building’s facade to determine whether it was safe, Lapointe said. Municipal inspectors will take a closer look at the building, he said.
The restaurant’s manager, Truc Luong, said his employees were shaken by what they witnessed and weren’t in “good shape” Thursday night.
He said one waiter was at the couple’s table when the concrete slab crashed through the glass ceiling. Luong, who arrived at the restaurant about half an hour after the accident, spent the evening making sure his employees all got a lift home.
Lindsay Leblanc lives in the hotel above the sushi restaurant. She and three friends were smoking on the hotel’s roof when the concrete broke loose. “We heard the bang. We thought it was thunder,” Leblanc said. “Or a car accident.”
When she and her friends arrived at street level, they could hear people crying.
Justine Lafond climbed out of a cab in front of Mikasa moments after the concrete struck. “I saw this woman lying on her side,” she said. “There was blood all around. I saw a piece of bone coming through her body.
“There was someone touching her to see if she was alive."
Lafond said she spoke to the waiter who had served the couple. “He said they were very much in love,” and that the woman was kind and friendly, Lafond said. “I saw lots of people running out of the restaurant, screaming and crying,” said Lafond’s companion, Marie Fidèle.
Clearly shaken, she said she arrived by taxi “almost right after it happened.”
“I couldn’t bring myself to go look. We were all asking each other what happened.”
Dana Citron was on Sherbrooke St. when the slab fell. After her mother heard a “crashing sound,” the two rounded the corner onto Peel to see what happened. Citron said she saw a man lying down, yelling and gesturing desperately near a woman who was not moving.
“They pulled the husband onto his side,” she said. “He was bleeding.”
Another man, who works at a building next door, arrived at the same time. He heard yelling and saw people standing around in shock. “In a state of panic like that, I think no one knows what to do,” he said.
The area in front of the building will remain closed to passersby until it is deemed safe, Lapointe said.
Bev Harding of Guelph, Ont., shepherding a group of more than a dozen teenage swimmers back to the hotel from a competition, was barred from the front entrance. “I guess we’ll try to go around back,” she said. The hotel did not need to be evacuated, Lapointe said.
(By Max Harrold, Jan Ravensbergen, Drew Halfnight and Philip Authier, The Gazette)

No comments: