Stress, sadness at U of G following webcam suicide attempt, fire
As dozens of students at the University of Guelph stood outside their residence Saturday night wondering what was happening inside, 200 people around the world knew exactly was going on – and were watching it live.
The fire broke out around 7:40 p.m. Saturday on the fourth floor of the school’s Dundas Hall residence.
The fire was extinguished and most fire damage was contained to one unit. Other units remain closed as the investigation continues.
Eighteen students were immediately displaced, and others returning for the school’s exam period are finding themselves in need of temporary accommodations as well.
“We’ve found rooms for them. They’re all being accommodated,” Brenda Whiteside, Guelph’s associate vice-president of student affairs, tells CTV News.
Four people – two Guelph Police officers and two campus police officers – were taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.
Also taken to hospital was the alleged culprit, a 20-year-old who lived in the residence.
His injuries are described as serious, but not life-threatening, and he remains in hospital.
According to reports, he broadcast the entire event online via his computer’s webcam to an audience of 200 people.
Video of the webcast has since been circulated in certain corners of the internet, a development Whiteside calls “disturbing”.
“Some of these social media sites are not at all concerned about our students or their well being,” she says.
“This is sensationalism, they’re trying to promote it and we can’t get it taken down. We can follow, but we’re always three or four paces behind.”
Kate Schievink, who lives on the same floor as the 20-year-old, says counselling services provided by the school have helped students turn their attention from the incident to the exam period.
“I think we’re starting to move on,” she says.
In a statement issued Monday morning, University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee said he was “saddened and shaken” by the event.
“I want to assure you that the student is in stable condition in hospital, where he is receiving needed treatment and help,” he wrote.
“I consider the University of Guelph community as a family. We pull together in times of crisis and to help those in need. Let us continue to support and strengthen one another.”
The story is making waves beyond southern Ontario – school officials have received calls from media in the United States and United Kingdom since the fire.