In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, the son of Gatineau hockey great Daniel Briere was caught on a surveillance camera shoving an unoccupied wheelchair down a flight of stairs at a bar in Erie, Pa.
The video was posted to Twitter by Julia Zukowski, who said she works at Sullivan’s Pub where the incident happened, and knows the person whose chair was damaged. She wrote that she made the footage public because she “just can’t stomach the thought of this kid getting away with it.”
The video shows Carson Briere, 23, walking up to the entryway of a dance floor with three other people when he notices an unoccupied wheelchair in the stairwell. He sits in the wheelchair and tries to manoeuvre around before getting up and pushing the chair down the stairs. The chair flips and the seat cushion comes off during the descent. The extent of the damage to the wheelchair is unclear.
Briere has since been temporarily suspended from his university’s NCAA hockey team after “considerable outcry” condemning his actions, according to a statement from Mercyhurst University. Two other Mercyhurst athletes were identified as being with Briere that night and have also been placed on interim suspension.
The small university of around 3,000 students added that Briere’s actions fell short of respecting “the inherent dignity of each person” and the university is standing “in solidarity with the victim and all persons with disabilities who rightfully find actions like this to be deeply offensive.”
Carson’s father Daniel is the current interim general manager for the Philadelphia Flyers and was a top NHL player during his time in the league. Daniel played just under 1,000 NHL games over 17 seasons for the Phoenix Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Flyers, Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche and gained a reputation as one of the league’s best Stanley Cup performers, earning 116 points in 124 career playoff games.
In a statement made through the Flyers, Carson apologized for his actions, writing: “I am deeply sorry for my behavior on Saturday. There is no excuse for my actions, and I will do whatever I can to make up for this serious lack of judgment.”
Daniel, who was promoted to run the Flyers last week when the previous general manager was fired, said he was shocked to see his son’s actions in the video.
“They are inexcusable and run completely counter to our family’s values on treating people with respect,” he said. “Carson is very sorry and accepts full responsibility for his behavior.”
Carson was previously dismissed from Arizona State’s hockey club in 2019 for what the school called a violation of team rules.
The person whose chair was damaged in the incident came forward Wednesday night after a GoFundMe page was made on her behalf to pay for a wheelchair replacement or repair.
“Sydney Benes (is) a double amputee that needs the chair to be mobile while she is learning to use her prosthetics,” the fundraising page reads, adding that the 22-year-old wanted to remain anonymous until she could file a police report for the damages to her chair.
The organizer of the GoFundMe Page noted that Benes’ chair was left alone in the stairwell because she was using the restroom at the bottom of the stairs. Sullivan’s Pub was built before accessible design requirements were enacted, so “I personally physically carry her down the stairs any time she has to use the restroom,” Nathaniel Sanders wrote.
The initial goal of US$1,500 has far been surpassed, with the amount raised sitting just under US$9,000 as of press time. Benes wrote on Twitter that she is looking to donate the extra money and thanked the staff at Sullivan’s Pub for helping her through this ordeal.
In a video posted to TikTok, Benes explains that she lost both of her feet after being severely burned in a 2021 car accident. Her left leg soon became infected after the crash, requiring most of the leg to be amputated.
Benes is learning how to walk again in physical therapy.
Global News has reached out to Benes for further comment.
— With files from The Associated Press
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