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Family accuses city of 'negligence' after Toronto man breaks ankle after slipping on uncleared snow

Toronto paramedics encountered snow and ice on a sidewalk as they attempted to bring a stretcher to assist patient Alvin Rebick on March 5. (Kael Rebick photo) Toronto paramedics encountered snow and ice on a sidewalk as they attempted to bring a stretcher to assist patient Alvin Rebick on March 5. (Kael Rebick photo)

Forest Hill resident Alvin Rebick won’t be walking anywhere for six to eight weeks after slipping on a snowbank and fracturing his ankle Sunday morning.

Rebick, who has lived in the Casa Loma area for the last 10 years, was out walking his dog around 8 a.m. near Tweedsmuir Avenue and Heath Street South, which is north of St. Clair Avenue West and west of Spadina Road. He had just crossed the road and, according to his daughter Kael, had no other option but to step on and over a rather large mound of snow and ice to access the sidewalk.

“He stuck his foot in a crevasse in the snowbank and somehow lost his footing, and fell and broke his ankle,” she told on Monday afternoon.

“He knew it was broken as soon as he fell.”

Kael said a family driving by saw what happened and pulled over to help her 74-year-old father, who wasn’t carrying his cell phone at that time.

Minutes later, Rebick’s wife, Glenna, and daughter Kael rushed over to be with him.

One of the most maddening parts of the whole thing, said Kael, is that the ambulance that had arrived at the scene actually got stuck in a snowbank while turning around on an unplowed street. Paramedics also struggled to get a stretcher to her dad, she said, as there was snow and ice on the sidewalk.

“It’s all so frustrating and upsetting,” said Kael, who added that what happened is “preventable” and the result of “negligence” on the part of the City of Toronto.

“This is absolutely ridiculous. The storm was Friday night and we knew it was coming. This happened Sunday morning.”

Kael said they’re now exploring pursuing legal action against the city.

“We’re definitely considering our options,” she said, adding her father is now resting at home and is expected to undergo major surgery on his ankle in the next week or so.

Toronto-St. Paul’s Coun. Josh Matlow said the City of Toronto must “do better” when it comes to snow clearing, which he called a “basic service a city should get right.”

“This brings to light once again the city’s both resistance and inability to prioritize a safe and accessible city when it comes to snow clearing,” said Matlow.

“It’s not acceptable that a Canadian city cannot deliver snow clearing adequately and competently. … Enough is enough.”

Matlow, who tried contacting Rebick directly a few times today to offer his support, said he’s long advocated for the city to improve and expand its snow clearing service.

The Ward 12 councillor was one of just a handful of councillors who voted against the latest round of snow removal contracts, a move he told comes just months after learning that 33 retro-fitted cement trucks would be included as part of the city’s 1,100-vehicle snow-removal fleet this winter.

“There aren’t enough vehicles. They had to put snow plows on cement trucks,” he said.

“That is incompetent. It’s not meeting Torontonians’ expectations.”

Matlow went on to say that it’s “absurd” that the city spent money on an ad campaign with the tagline “Winter Is Coming and So Are We.”

“The winter came, but the city didn’t arrive,” he quipped, adding Torontonians will soon have the opportunity to elect a new mayor who will prioritize the safety of the city’s residents.

In a statement, the City of Toronto said it is aware of "reports of a resident who, according to his family, fell while attempting to cross a windrow."

"We wish this resident a speedy and full recovery. The safety of residents is our top priority and we take all incidents very seriously," spokesperson Hannah Stewart said.

"City crews are clearing all of the city's 7,400 km of sidewalks of snow as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The significant amount of snowfall does take time to clear and crews continue to work to clear sidewalks," she said, adding starting tongiht the city will begin snow removal operations "to remove snow from designated public right-of-way locations where snow storage capacity has been exceeded."

"Removing snow from these areas is complex and time consuming but will greatly improve the safety and accessibility of these areas," said Stewart, who went on to note that residents are encouraged to report any uncleared sidewalks to 311 so that city crews can address issues in a timely manner.

She also said that residents are also reminded to use caution "as conditions can be both icy and slippery."

Earlier today, the City of Toronto posted a tweet advising residents that they can call 311 to make a service request for snow removal.

“If you see a street, sidewalk, transit stop or bike lane that needs plowing, you can report it at the link below & a crew member will follow up,” it read. 

Since Friday’s storm, dozens of people have taken to social media to share photos of uncleared snowbanks, sidewalks, and roads.

On Saturday morning, the City of Toronto declared a “major snowstorm condition,” which resulted in parking being prohibited for 72 hours on designated snow routes so snow removal operations could take place. Barbara Gray, of Transportation Services, said snow removal wouldn’t likely begin until Monday evening after plowing operations ended.

Vehicles that remain parked on a designated snow route could be towed and drivers could be subject to a fine of up to $200.

Gray said it would “take some time” to complete the snow removal process and that drivers, pedestrians and cyclists should give themselves extra travel time and be cautious of everyone around them.

Vincent Sferrazza, director of operations and maintenance of transportation for the City of Toronto, told reporters Saturday that it’s “all hands on deck” to clear the snow.

“We've been planning for this event for over a week and getting the snow dumpsites ready and mobilizing our removal crews in advance,” he said. also contacted the Toronto Civic Employees Union, Local 416, which represents the city’s paramedics, but has not heard back.

With files from CTV News Toronto’s Katherine DeClerq. Top Stories

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