Family of N.S. man killed in ATV rollover says police treated 911 call as a hoax

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The family of a Nova Scotia man who died pinned underneath an all-terrain vehicle while waiting for help that would never come is demanding a review of 911 procedures in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Jeff Harrietha, a 32-year-old father of two, was found dead Sept. 10 in Alder Point.

Five days earlier, Harrietha's family said he dialed 911 to report he'd been involved in an ATV rollover and was trapped.

His sister, Amy Gerrow, told CBC News police dismissed her brother's call for help as a hoax.

"They said that they've had so many fake calls the past week that they assumed it was just another fake call," she said.

"My mom has her days. She doesn't want to go on any overnight trips because she feels that he's going to come home any minute. She's having a hard time."

Reported missing Sept. 8

Gerrow and her husband discovered Harrietha missing upon returning home to Millville from a trip over the Labour Day weekend.

After a day or two passed with no sign of Harrietha, the family reported him missing Sept. 8. A search and rescue team began looking for Harrietha the following day.

The family said they met with Cape Breton Regional Police on Sept. 10, just hours before Harrietha's body was found.

"We wanted to know if his bank accounts were touched or anything like that," said Gerrow. "They told us that nothing was touched and he had made the 911 call."

Harrietha had been living with his oldest sister since May after a few run-ins with the law. His phone number was listed to a Dartmouth property, which Gerrow said may have been a source of confusion when he called 911.

If police had performed a wellness check, Gerrow said they likely would have realized Harrietha was no longer living at his old address.

Report filed with complaints commissioner

Harrietha was the nephew of Gordon MacDonald, the CBRM councillor for District 1. MacDonald said someone dropped the ball.

"He identified his location, and told them he rolled his bike, and told them his phone was going dead," said MacDonald. "I believe the regional police didn't take it seriously."

MacDonald said he expects the issue will be brought to regional council.

Harrietha's family has filed a report with the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner, an arms-length agency that investigates alleged misconduct by municipal police officers.

Desiree Magnus, a spokeswoman for the Cape Breton Regional Police Service, said she could not discuss specifics of the case. The police service has requested an outside agency investigate the matter.

"We sympathize with the family and understand their need for answers," said Magnus. "We support and will fully participate in the investigative processes in place."

CBRM's dispatch centre falls under the responsibility of its technology and communications department.

A department spokesperson said dispatch follows provincial Emergency Management Office protocols by alerting police, fire and paramedics. Each unit is responsible for triaging their own calls. MORE TOP STORIES: