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Charges laid in camp counsellor's death


A year after the death of 18-year-old Michael Greene at an Algonquin Park camp in 2007, the Ministry of Labour has filed charges against the camp and its owners.

David Greene, of Michigan, said that on June 20, 2007, his son Michael drown while taking part in a swimming test to qualify him as a camp counselor at Camp Tamakwa on South Tea Lake, west of the west gate of Algonquin Park.

Ministry spokesman Bruce Skeaff confirmed that Camp Tamakwa Incorporated was charged on June 18 this year under the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.

Also served with the same charge were Vic Norris, senior director and owner, and Craig Perlmutter, camp director and owner.

Michael's father, David Greene, said he is relieved to hear of the charges.

Since his son's death last year, Mr. Greene has been searching for details surrounding his son's death.

Both the Greene family and the camp maintain two different versions of the incident.

Mr. Greene has maintained a website to display correspondence between himself and the camp's directors, as well as his interpretations of ongoing investigations.

He said one concern he has is the time it took for his son to be seen by paramedics.

He contends that after the 9-1-1 call was made from the camp, it was an hour before paramedics saw his son, and another two hours before he was in the hands of a physician at Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto.

"I always believed that there was a doctor in camp, I never thought for a minute that they wouldn't have a doctor present," he said.

Another point of concern for Mr. Greene was the discrepancy between the results of the autopsy and what he and his wife saw post-mortem.

According to Mr. Greene, the autopsy reported the cause of Michael's death was undetermined.

He said details recorded on the autopsy report such as Michael's weight and height were incorrect.

He also said that when Michael's body was received at the funeral home in Michigan, he and his wife witnessed a black and blue bump on their son's forehead, which was not identified on the autopsy report.

"It is my understanding that once one is dead the bump couldn't have gone black and blue," he said.

In a document recently obtained by The Daily Observer, owners Mr. Norris and Mr. Perlmutter wrote to camp Tamakwa families explaining their version of Michael's death in 2007.

"Michael Greene, a junior counselor and a camper for many years, descended from the water surface without any sign of distress or trauma, typically characterized by a potential drowning victim. He was submerged and rescued within seconds by our staff who administered CPR, and used oxygen and an automated defibrillator, enabling Michael to regain his vital signs. A helicopter ambulance transported Michael to Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. Despite valiant efforts, Michael was unable to be saved."

"We learned some days after the swim test, while en route to the swim dock that day, Michael confided in a friend that he was experiencing chest pains. But, again, we have not learned what caused Michael to suddenly descend from the water's, nor do we know if any findings will be made with certainty."

The letter also acknowledges the Ministry of Labour's charges, and stated, "We emphatically deny the alleged violation. We still have never received an investigative report from the Ministry of Labour, nor have we been informed as to the cause of Michael's death from the coroner's office. This matter has now been turned over to our legal counsel and will in all probability be a lengthy process. We expect a favorable resolution."

During a phone call, Mr. Norris reiterated his stance on the issue.

"There is a proceeding pending and we intend to defend allegations that have been made and we are confident we'll prevail," he said. "We're a summer camp and we've been reluctant to make this public through the media."

Mr. Greene said there are number of people who are angry with his family that the Ministry of Labour has filed charges.

"I made three promises to my son while he was lying on his death bed," he added. "One, I will find out what happened. Two, I will do everything in my power to make camps safer.

"The third was to somehow memorialize Michael as related to the camp because he absolutely loved Algonquin Park and Camp Tamakwa," he said.

Mr. Greene said he also chose to memorialize Michael at his high school in Michigan, where a memorial golf award was set up, as well as a fund for roller hockey in his community.

"Through those two programs we have the ability to have Michael's memory live on forever," he added. "If there was any way to do that through Algonquin Park and Camp Tamakwa I will have completed my goal and I would have fulfilled my promise to my son."

The first appearance date for the camp and its owners will be August 1 at the Ontario Court of Justice in North Bay. As of yet the accused have not pleaded to the charges.

Ministry spokesman Bruce Skeaff said that if found guilty, the camp may face a fine of up to $500,000. As individuals, Mr. Norris and Mr. Perlmutter face a maximum fine of $25,000 and/or 12 months in jail.

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