Volunteer mistakes Zamboni for snow plow, causes mayhem on hill

Fredericton — As yet another early blast of winter hit the province last night and this morning, a call for volunteers to take on tasks normally handled by the city’s striking outside workers has backfired after an ice-making machine was mistakenly used to try to clear snow from some of the city’s steepest residential streets.

“It’s actually a pretty great skating surface,” York Street resident Donald Whittaker said while waiting for doctors to tend to his broken arm at the nearby Chalmers Hospital emergency room. “But it’s not so good for walking, especially on the hill.”

zamboniWhittaker said he stepped out this morning to bring in his recycling bin at the end of his driveway near the top of the hill, and ended up sliding 7 blocks before eventually coming to rest against the front steps of City Hall, a distance of about 1.2 kilometres.

“I’ve never been able to make it downtown that fast and I’ve lived here pretty near all my life,” he said.

“It was an honest mistake,” Mayor Brad Woodside tweeted, adding that he still stands by his earlier call for city residents to “plow their own roads on the way to work.”

Woodside admitted that some volunteers may need training to avoid similar future mishaps, and says city staff are preparing a pamphlet with clearly labelled photographs of equipment and their intended uses.

“Not everyone knows the difference between a snow plow and a Zamboni. Our brochure will fix that,” he wrote.

Dr. Zafire Shammid, head of the hospital’s emergency service, said nearly 200 people were being treated for broken bones as a result of falling and sliding downtown along several of the streets that were iced overnight.

“I saw 3 seniors go by like rockets,” said restauranteur Sarah LeBeouf at the door of her café at the bottom of the York Street hill. “They were flailing around trying to grab something but with a perfect surface like that and a bit of rain on top, they might have made it all the way down to the river.”

City police issued a statement on their Facebook page warning pedestrians who live on the hill to stay indoors, particularly since the Saint John River, which divides the city, is only partially frozen.

“Please stay off the river until the ice is at least a foot thick,” the warning notes. “Otherwise, you’ll probably sink and drown.”

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