Police on scene in South Surrey in 2014.

Communications breakdown delayed paramedics in 2014 killing

But Surrey's fire chief says a lot has changed since the 2014 murder

New details have emerged surrounding the response to an early-morning attack in South Surrey that killed 15-year-old Dario Bartoli in 2014.

A letter from Surrey Fire Chief Len Garis obtained by Vancouver radio station CKNW under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act cites “serious concerns” with B.C. Ambulance Service response on the night that took the life of the popular Earl Marriott student.

In the letter, to Provincial Health Services Authority executive vice-president Linda Lupini, Garis said police were on hold for approximately three minutes in their first call to B.C. Ambulance Service. RCMP officers later called again to request an emergency response “because they could not hear or confirm any ambulance or fire service first responder responses.”

Police then called Surrey Fire Service, which arrived on the scene, according to the Jan. 20, 2015 letter, which was partially redacted and did not include response time. (Lupini told Peace Arch News this week that paramedics arrived 20 minutes after being called.)

“The potential for variance and gaps in the expectations does cause concern, lack of confidence and potentially create liabilities for all parties,” reads the letter, which the city initially refused to release, according to CKNW.

In the early morning hours of Dec. 13, 2014, an altercation took place in or near Bakerview Park at 18 Avenue and 154 Street, leaving Bartoli with critical injuries. Bartoli was transported to Peace Arch Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries.

No one has been charged in the murder.

Reached Monday, Garis told Peace Arch News that what was a problem then isn’t a problem now.

“What I articulated in that letter was something that we believed to be systemic,” he said. “There’s been an awful lot of water that’s gone under the bridge to correct that.

“Clearly an awful lot has changed since then, and I’m not wanting to be an instrument or conduit for regenerating a very difficult and challenging time for everybody that was involved in it.”

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Garis said more changes are needed in the “ever-evolving” nature of communities and emergency response needs.

“The growth of calls is steady, and it’s becoming somewhat worrisome. Recognizing that, there’s more changes needed.”

Lupini, whose Provincial Health Services Authority supports the BC Ambulance Service, said the letter prompted a review, and three additional ambulances have since been added in Surrey – improving response times.

“We’re in a continuous improvement process all the time… and we do feel the whole call processing, our work with Surrey Fire and adding additional resources has created a better situation,” she said Monday.

Lupini said it took paramedics 20 minutes to arrive. They spent approximately 13 minutes stabilizing Bartoli before transferring him to hospital – which took another three minutes.

“When we did the review, we may have been able to get there earlier than that,” she said. “We don’t really know whether getting there earlier by pulling a car off another call… would have made a difference, but we did see that we might have been able to do that and we felt perhaps we should have.”

Lupini said the incident has been used as a case study for officials – with permission from Bartoli’s mother June Iida – to improve response process.

Iida declined to comment Monday.

Since her son’s death she has launched the Dario Bartoli Movement, a project aimed at installing cameras and lights in city parks.

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