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FILE -- Robert Dziekanski holds a small table at the Vancouver Airport in this image from video. (Paul Pritchard/The Canadian Press)
FILE -- Robert Dziekanski holds a small table at the Vancouver Airport in this image from video. (Paul Pritchard/The Canadian Press)

Mark Hume

The tragic end to a quest for a new life Add to ...

By the time the RCMP brought Robert Dziekanski to bay in Vancouver International Airport, fanning out in a crescent to trap him with his back against a counter, he had been travelling for more than 31 hours.

He was exhausted, dazed, confused, dehydrated and sweat plastered his hair to his head. Under the fluorescent lighting, his glazed eyes and pallid skin gave him the look, some thought, of a man coming down from alcohol, although he was not.

He had the shakes, he was making sounds to himself - "rrr,rrr,rrr" - and he was behaving irrationally, throwing things and pounding on glass doors that wouldn't open for him.

But the Braidwood Commission report, which chronicles Mr. Dziekanski's fateful last day, makes it clear he wasn't looking for a drink as he wandered lost in YVR, and he wasn't looking for a fight, although the police wrongly thought otherwise.

What he wanted was to find his mother so he could start a new life in Canada, the land, he told his friends, "where there is milk and honey."

The journey began in Gliwice, Poland, at about 3 a.m. when friends gathered in his small apartment to send him off. But first they had to talk him down from a panic attack.

Mr. Dziekanski, a 40-year-old typesetter and handyman, had never flown before and he was terrified of the trip he had to make to join his mother, Zofia Cisowski, who had earlier immigrated to Canada to settle in Kamloops, B.C.

"He was shaking ... he was holding on to a radiator," said Robert Dylski, who drove him to the airport, as his friend clung to a vomit bucket.

Mr. Dziekanski flew to Germany at 6:20 a.m. on Oct. 13, 2007, and transferred for a 10-hour flight to Vancouver, arriving at YVR's glistening new international terminal at 3:15 p.m.

His mother had been waiting since 1:20, but she could not enter the secure international area and stayed outside, not knowing where he was.

For 10 hours, Mr. Dziekanski - who had been told by his mother to wait by the baggage carousel - remained in the secure arrivals zone.

In the public meeting area, Ms. Cisowski made several attempts to find him, but officials failed to locate her son - and at 10 p.m. she left after Tina Zadravec, a Canada Immigration officer, told her to go home because "there was no landed immigrant from Poland there."

At 10:40 p.m. Mr. Dziekanski presented himself to a Canadian Border Services Agency officer for processing and at 11:40, immigration officer Juliette Van Agteren paged Mr. Dziekanski's mother, went to look for her and phoned her home.

But by then Ms. Cisowski was gone.

At 12:45 a.m. on Oct. 14, Mr. Dziekanski, looking "fatigued, confused and stressed," left international arrivals and pushed his suitcases on a luggage cart into the public meeting area. But minutes later he tried to re-enter the secure zone.

At this point Mr. Dziekanski's behaviour became increasingly irrational. He was seen clambering over a railing, piling up his suitcases in a wall, pounding on glass doors, smashing a chair and computer monitor and blocking the passage of others, including Lorne Meltzer, a corporate valet, who would later say in a statement to police "that on a scale of one to ten, when ten is attacking another person, Mr. Dziekanski was at a nine."

At about 1:15 a series of 911 calls were made.

Sima Ashrafinia, who was waiting for her husband to arrive on a flight, approached Mr. Dziekanski and tried to calm him, using hand gestures.

She heard Mr. Dziekanski saying "polisa" or "politizia," but wasn't sure whether he meant "police" or "please."

Then Ms. Ashrafinia turned and, at about 1:28 a.m., saw four RCMP officers arriving.

Moments later, Mr. Dziekanski was tasered, and fell screaming. Police wrestled with him and cuffed his hands behind his back.

One minute later, the report states, his "face turned from white to blue" and less than an hour after he'd become a landed immigrant, he died on the floor.

Follow on Twitter: @markhumeglobe

 

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