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"BEZ" 2004 Obituary


BEZAIRE 

BEZAIRE o@ca.on.middlesex_county.london.london_free_press 2004-12-31 published
Man freezes to death
The family of Millar CAMPBELL wants answers to why he was left in the cold.
By Marissa NELSON, Free Press Reporter
An 87-year-old London man, who overcame a brain injury to live a productive life, froze to death outside a closed seniors' centre on Boxing Day night after he was dropped off there by a cab driver. And while police say a criminal act was not committed in the death of Millar CAMPBELL and a cab company insists its driver did nothing wrong, grieving family members are left wondering how an elderly person could be left in the cold at night, outside an empty building on Hamilton Road in the dead of winter.
Temperatures that night dipped to -21°C, with windchill values as low as -28°C.
London police Det.-Insp. Buzz BEZAIRE called CAMPBELL's death "an unfortunate comedy of errors."
CAMPBELL was to return home from Christmas celebrations at his granddaughter's home on December 26 about 7 p.m., but instead got out of an Aboutown cab at the Hamilton Road Seniors' Centre just a few blocks from his retirement home, Maple Village.
Police found his body outside the community centre's back door the next day.
CAMPBELL had spent the last day of his life with his granddaughter, Danielle BARRINGTON of London.
As she left a funeral home yesterday after visitation, she said she didn't understand how the tragedy could occur.
"I just held his hand now and it was cold. I just said, 'I'm so sorry. You're as cold now as you probably were outside that night,' BARRINGTON said.
BEZAIRE said this is how the tragedy unfolded:
- CAMPBELL was picked up by a cab at BARRINGTON's Dundas Street home about 7 p.m. and asked to be taken to a Hamilton Road address.
- When the cab arrived at that address, CAMPBELL told the cabbie it wasn't the right place. He asked the driver to head farther east on Hamilton Road.
- When the taxi got to the seniors' centre, CAMPBELL told the driver it was the right place.
- The driver asked CAMPBELL if he was sure -- because the centre was dark -- but CAMPBELL reassured the driver and got out.
- The next day, staff at Maple Village retirement home -- where residents are free to come and go as they please -- called police to report CAMPBELL missing. Police later found his body.
BEZAIRE said although he's awaiting the autopsy report, it's believed CAMPBELL died of exposure and no foul play is suspected.
"It is sad," BEZAIRE said. "Nothing criminal happened. He wasn't kicked out of somewhere or turned away by the cab."
Jim DONNELLY, president of Aboutown, said he's satisfied the driver did what he should have.
"This is a terrible tragedy, particularly around Christmas... Our sympathies go to the family.
"With the elderly, there should be more information," DONNELLY said, noting some family members even ride with their relatives or give specific instructions to drivers.
But BARRINGTON said the taxi driver was told where to take CAMPBELL and that she put $10 in her grandfather's pocket for the ride.
"What the hell was (the taxi driver) doing?" she asked, tears streaming down her face. "Why would you let him go? I don't understand why any of this happened."
CAMPBELL's nephew, Robert SMITH, from Collingwood, questioned why anyone would leave an elderly man at a closed centre in frigid weather.
"Seniors fall between the cracks too often," he said. "It can just take a series of carelessness and it costs someone his life... There are a number of people who need to answer some questions."
CAMPBELL suffered a serious head injury when he was a young man, SMITH said. A truck tire exploded and part of the metal rim went into his head. But CAMPBELL worked hard to recover and went on to work for the postal service.
CAMPBELL's wife died several years ago. He also was predeceased by his wife's son, whom he helped raise.
BARRINGTON said the last day she spent with her grandfather was a joyous one.
"He was very funny and very caring. He loved me large," she said. "He wouldn't let go of my hand."

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