Support pours in for critically injured TDSB trustee
Joshua Freeman and Chris Kitching, cp24.com
Published Sunday, March 17, 2013 11:44AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, March 18, 2013 3:45PM EDT
Statements of support poured in Sunday for a long-time trustee of the Toronto District School Board who was critically injured in a fire Saturday.
Irene Atkinson, who represents Parkdale-High Park at the TDSB, was pulled from her burning home Saturday evening and is currently on a ventilator, being treated for smoke inhalation at Toronto General Hospital.
Speaking at a news conference Sunday afternoon, TDSB Vice-Chair Shaun Chen said the news has shocked Atkinson’s colleagues.
“This news has hit the TDSB family quite hard,” Chen said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Atkinson family.
Chen said the TDSB community is praying and hoping for Atkinson’s recovery. He also described her as a woman accustomed to fighting tough battles.
“Trustee Atkinson is a veteran. She has fought diligently and very passionately for public education,” he said. “She has served as chair of the TDSB. She has given over 40 years for public education.”
Atkinson was recently recognized for her contributions with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
Speaking to CP24 Sunday, Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo said Atkinson’s local community is also praying for her well-being.
“We love her here. That’s the simple fact,” said DiNovo, a friend of Atkinson’s. “We love her here and we want to see her well.
DiNovo described Atkinson as “a passionate voice for public education” who doesn’t miss a beat on education issues, despite the fact that she’s now in her 70s.
In a statement released Sunday evening, Premier Kathleen Wynne called Atkinson a friend and said she’s “a wonderful individual and a force of nature.”
Wynne said she worked with Atkinson as a young parent and as a colleague when she joined the school board.
“She has an amazingly strong will and is just a terrific fighter, and I pray that she is able to recover,” Wynne said. “For decades, Irene has fought fearlessly and tirelessly… for the kids of Toronto, and I know that families throughout Toronto are pulling for her now.”
Mayor Rob Ford also sent Atkinson his good wishes Sunday, saying he would do anything he could as mayor to help her family at this difficult time.
More good wishes flowed on Twitter, where teachers, politicians and ordinary citizens wished Atkinson well using the hash tag “getwellIrene.”
Chen said Atkinson’s daughter is with her in hospital, while her two other daughters are en route to Toronto to be with her.
Pulled from two-alarm blaze
Firefighters responded to a call about a fire at Atkinson’s High Park Boulevard home Sunday evening and found the home in flames when they arrived.
They pulled Atkinson from the back deck of the house, which is divided into apartments, and performed CPR before she was rushed to hospital.
A second woman took shelter on a balcony until firefighters could get to her.
One cat died in the fire.
Damage was estimated at close to $500,000, firefighters said.
The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal is investigating the blaze, which is believed to have originated in a first-floor kitchen.
Firefighters on scene told CP24 they believe the fire may have been related to the home’s electrical wiring.
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