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Sask. first responders speak out following social media posts of accident scene

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Yorkton, Sask. -

Yorkton Fire Protective Services is asking the public to have some compassion when taking photos and videos during the aftermath of accidents.

"We do understand in a sense that people are curious about what's happening in their community and they want to know what's going on,” Fire Chief Trevor Morrissey expressed.

“The problem that it poses is that curiosity sometimes gets in the way of the movement of emergency vehicles, it gets in the way of the investigation as to what happened, and into the care for the people involved."

Morrissey’s comments come after a collision between a car and an SUV on May 20 at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Broadway Street in Yorkton. 

Yorkton RCMP reported that the driver of the car was taken to the hospital with injuries described as non-life threatening, and the two passengers in the car were taken to hospital with injuries described as serious in nature.

However, while Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were responding, people were allegedly taking photos of the scene and posting on social media.

“Sometimes pictures get out, and family members are finding out about incidents in the most inappropriate ways,” Morrissey said sympathetically.

“They are sitting having a coffee at home when someone posts something on social media and it’s their child. When people see a vehicle that’s all they see, they see a colour of a vehicle and instantly a lot of people are wondering is that my son, daughter, because it’s a blue truck which inundates call centres, it inundates our service, the RCMP. It brings people to the scene that don’t need to be there.”

Morrissey added the overcrowding at a scene impacts the quality of care EMS workers provide to people impacted.

“That itself causes us a lot of problems, it causes us to not effectively deal with what’s going on because we’re trying to keep people back,” he said.

“We have a duty to protect people’s privacy, and that’s when they’re at their most vulnerable state.”

Yet, Morrisey is not the only one to comment on the matter. Yorkton RCMP said posting scenes of a vehicle accident online can interfere with the police’s Next of Kin responsibilities, along with their investigations.

"Social media can explode as we've seen, people can make this is what happened, this is what happened, we don't know that right away,” explained Sgt. Burton Jones of Yorkton RCMP.

“Sometimes the police investigation does take time and we always do follow up with a media release of where it's been, where it's going, so when people put stuff online like that really quickly it of course hinders our investigation,” he added.

“If there’s fatalities involved, someone’s passed away as a result of the accident, if someone takes a picture and posts it on social media, it really prohibits the police from doing their job. One of our jobs is to do a Next of Kin notification where we go to visit the family in person with support.”

In some cases, people can be held liable for the footage they post online of vehicle collisions, Jones added.

“Another part of it is if there are people coming and moving barricades trying to get into the scene we’re working on, there are implications there under the Criminal Code for obstruction because there’s an active investigation,” he explained.

“If people are filming, they have to realize that might be used as evidence. If the police do capture that, we might need the photographs, we might need the evidence so potentially a cellphone could be seized or a camera as part of the investigation.”

Jones recommended people call 310-7267 (RCMP) if they are concerned a loved one has been impacted during a crash.

“The biggest thing is patience, you just have to wait and let the RCMP, let the police do their investigation they need to do,” Jones said.

“If it has to do with a loved one of yours, you'll be contacted as soon as we possibly can, we’ll have someone contact you and tell you the circumstances behind it. The only thing we can ask for is people to be patient and wait for the police to call.” 

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