Two Niagara Regional Police officers have been commended by the Ontario Special Investigations Unit for their attempts to save a Vineland woman in July of last year.
Const. Phil Sheldon, who received serious, permanent burns, and Const. Dale Culley responded to a domestic dispute call,which escalated into a fire.
On July 5, 2015, the Grimsby detachment officers attended a residence on Epp Street in Vineland regarding a family domestic disturbance. The result of SIU’s investigation showed:
“Neither officer is in any way responsible for the fire which took the lives of the mother and son. It is also evident that the officers had no chance to intervene to prevent this destructive act. They were unaware that they were entering an extremely dangerous situation and had barely set foot inside the home when the man, located several feet away from the officers, set it ablaze,” notes the report from SIU Director Tony Loparco, received early this month.
Director Loparco further states, “In the final analysis, the man is alone to blame for his death and the death of his mother, as well as the injuries to the officers, especially the first officer, whose heroic efforts to save the woman left him with permanent injuries.”
In the incident, which happened at about 8:30 p.m. that night, Constables Sheldon and Culley were dispatched to an Epp Street home in Vineland. They were responding to a domestic dispute. When the officers arrived, they immediately heard screams coming from inside the house.
They entered the house and encountered a 50-year-old man standing in the living room beside his 73-year-old mother, who was in a wheelchair. Within seconds of the officers entering the home, the man ignited gasoline that had been poured out in the room.
Const. Sheldon attempted to rescue the woman but he slipped and fell to the floor, and his body caught fire. Then Const. Sheldon, with the assistance of Const. Culley, managed to escape the burning home. Const. Culley assisted Const. Sheldon in extinguishing the flames. The officers both received serious burn injuries as a result. The officers continue to recover at home.
The man and woman within the house died of acute smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning.
“Every single day across this Province and this country the men and women of Law Enforcement respond to calls for help from members of the community. On July 5th 2015 Niagara Regional Police Constables Phil Sheldon and Dale Culley received one of those calls for help to attend a domestic situation in Vineland. As they entered the home to assist an elderly wheelchair bound woman, the woman’s son ignited gasoline he had spread throughout the room. The explosion and fire was devastating. Did Phil and Dale stop? No. They did all that they could to save that woman even at the risk of their own lives and safety. And their lives were changed forever that day,” said NRPS Chief Jeff McGuire.
I am incredibly proud of Phil and Dale and their commitment not just to the safety of our community but to their continuing commitment, every single day since July 5th 2015 to heal themselves and get back to their job, and their lives. I spoke to both of these men within days of the event and they both conceded that they did what they had to do and they would do the same again on the very next call if they had to. These heroes don’t want to be heroes, they want to be cops, and damn fine cops they are.”