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Thu, March 1, 2007

Fear strikes WCB

Bomb scare after man drives truck up steps


He certainly got the attention he was looking for.

A disgruntled middle-aged man drove a pickup truck to the front doors of the Workers Compensation Board's headquarters and caused a bomb scare that sent waves of panic throughout downtown Winnipeg shortly before noon yesterday.

The situation ended peacefully moments later when the man voluntarily gave himself up to police.

"He got out of the truck, put his hands in the air, and a police officer grabbed him from behind," said one witness.

The man, who identified himself as a CN worker, yelled at reporters and passersby while being hauled into a police car.

Triggers evacuation

"The Workers Compensation Board has been screwing us CN workers for years," the man yelled at the crowd. "I'm just trying to get some attention."

A Canadian National Railway spokesman said it's unclear how, or if, the suspect was involved with that company.

"We have not been informed of the person's name so we can't determine what, if any, relationship this person has with CN," said spokesman Kevin Franchuk.

His stunt triggered the evacuation of three office buildings and closed Broadway for nearly four hours. Traffic was closed for several blocks, and downtown was at a standstill as the police bomb squad used a robot and other equipment to examine the white Dodge Ram following the arrest.

A fuel tank was visible in the box of the truck, and the man was thought to be seen with something in his hand, which could have possibly been a detonator, police said. However, the police bomb squad found no evidence of any explosives in the truck.

The streets were reopened and people allowed to return to work about 3:30 p.m.

One witness told police she saw the man nervously sitting in the truck behind the WCB building about 8:30 a.m. yesterday, but the incident didn't get started until about 11:50 a.m., when the man drove up some stairs and parked in front of the main entrance. He did not hit the building.

The stunt caused an uproar among workers in the building.

"I was at my desk doing some work just before noon, and we got an e-mail. We were told there was an incident on the main floor and not to go to the main floor," said one WCB employee who works in the main office at 333 Broadway. "Then about 10 or 15 minutes later they sounded the alarms and I figured 'I guess we're being evacuated.' "

Many WCB employees were sent home around 2:30 p.m.

Warren Preece, a Workers Compensation Board spokesman, said more than 300 people were evacuated, some of whom returned to work around 3:30 p.m., when traffic barricades also began to let up.

"Everyone is safe and sound," said Preece.

Preece said he could not confirm the man had a dispute with the WCB or what it might be.

Two other neighbouring office buildings were also evacuated, while people in buildings across the street were asked to steer clear of windows.

There was no word by press time last night whether the man will be charged.

- With files from

Joyanne Pursaga

(Note: The CIWS does not condone or encourage violence but we report incidents that may involve injured workers in order to expose the level of frustration and desperation many injured workers reportedly feel about the WCB system.)

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