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Paramedic focussed on Dale Porter's neck wound: testimony

Allan Potter speaks to his lawyers before heading back to the lockup after his murder trial was adjourned Friday. Potter, 55, has been reviewing evidence and taking notes on witness testimony throughout the trial.
Allan Potter speaks to his lawyers before heading back to the lockup after his murder trial was adjourned Friday. Potter, 55, has been reviewing evidence and taking notes on witness testimony throughout the trial. - Tara Bradbury

First responders tried to stem blood flow at the scene

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Paramedic Andrea Sullivan was on call and sleeping when she received word around 4 a.m. on June 29, 2014, that she was needed at the scene of a possible stabbing in North River.

Getting into an ambulance with her co-worker, an emergency medical responder, Sullivan hurried to the address provided to her, and confirmed with police on the way that it was safe to get out of the vehicle.

Jumping out of the ambulance at the end of a residential driveway, the first responders were greeted with a frantic scene: four or five bystanders — Sullivan couldn’t remember how many, since they weren't her primary concern — some of them screaming and all of them upset. On the ground at the end of the driveway was an overwrought blonde woman, applying pressure to a serious wound on the neck of a man.

The man had clearly lost blood and was not breathing, but Sullivan found a pulse. She and her partner got the man into a neck brace and on a stretcher, then put him in the back of the ambulance and called for another paramedic to meet them on the way to the hospital in Carbonear. While her partner drove, Sullivan and an RCMP officer cut off the man's clothes, revealing multiple stab wounds on his neck, chest, abdomen, arms and hands.

"The major stab wound was to his neck. That's what I was most concerned with. That's where he was losing all his blood," Sullivan said Friday.

The man was Dale Porter, a 39-year-old fisherman and father of two, and the driveway in which he was found was his own.

"The major stab wound was to his neck. That's what I was most concerned with. That's where he was losing all his blood." — paramedic Andrea Sullivan

When the second paramedic got aboard, a mask was placed on Porter's face to open his airway, and ventilations were started with the help of a manual resuscitator. An IV was inserted into Porter's arm to give him fluids as quickly as possible, and defibrillation pads were attached to him, just in case. The goal was to keep his blood pressure up, Sullivan said, so he wouldn't go into cardiac arrest.

Porter remained unresponsive, and his condition deteriorated further en route to hospital. The crew called ahead to let medical staff in Carbonear know they had a trauma patient on the way in.

"So they're expecting the worst, basically," Sullivan testified.

At the hospital, Porter was transferred to the care of a team of doctors and nurses, including emergency room physician Dr. Hasan Al-Obaidi.

"He was in a shock state," Al-Obaidi said.

Medical staff quickly intubated Porter and inserted more IVs, then began chest compressions — 30 of them — followed by two ventilations.

A defibrillator wasn't used, Al-Obaidi explained, essentially because defibrillators can't start a stopped heart.

"We didn't get any signs of response from the patient. The heart did not respond," Al-Obaidi said."

Once 45 minutes had passed since Porter was picked up by the ambulance, life-saving measures were stopped and he was declared deceased.

Medical staff didn't touch Porter after that, Al-Obaidi said, because they had been informed there was going to be a murder investigation, and police took over at that point.

Al-Obaidi and Sullivan both testified in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Friday morning at the murder trial of Allan Potter, who is accused of stabbing Porter and leaving him in his driveway.

They recounted their memories of the night in question through questioning by prosecutors Sheldon Steeves and Erin Matthews.

Defence lawyers Randy Piercey and Jon Noonan didn't have many questions when it came to their cross-examination, but focused on Sullivan's recollection of a fresh laceration on Porter's leg, near his hip.

Piercey pointed out the autopsy photos entered as evidence earlier in the week had not shown a leg injury.

"It could have been old. I was mainly concerned with the wound on his neck," Sullivan responded.

Al-Obaidi said Porter's wounds had been on his upper body only.

DNA specialist

DNA specialist Florence Celestin of the RCMP's national crime lab in Ottawa also testified at Potter's trial Friday, presenting results of testing completed on various items and swabs seized by investigators as part of the investigation into Porter's murder.

Porter's DNA was located on swabs of stains taken from the interior of a taxi, as well as on a cigarette butt taken from his own residence. A second DNA profile — Potter's — was also found on the cigarette, she said.

"Well, people sometimes share cigarettes when they smoke," Celestin said when asked by the defence how the cigarette could contain two DNA profiles.

Porter's DNA was also found on a grey zip-up hoodie Potter had been wearing when he was arrested and questioned by police in the week following the murder. He was not charged at that time and was released.

Three stains from the hoodie were tested, and two of them were found to contain Porter's DNA, with a one in 640 billion chance of it belonging to someone else, Celestin told the court. The third sample was not suitable for analysis, and though the stains looked like blood, this was not confirmed by tests, she said, adding they could have been some other biological material.

Washing a garment could degrade the hemoglobin in a blood sample, Celestin testified, so it doesn't react upon testing, but DNA can still be extracted.

Potter's DNA was the only profile found in blood staining on a leather Vikings Motorcycle Club vest police had seized during a search of the bikers' clubhouse in Cupids, Celestin said. It was Potter's blood on a Bic lighter also taken from the clubhouse, she added.

DNA testing conducted on a foldable knife that had been located in a stream turned up nothing on the blade or the handle, Celestin testified.

Several of Porter's friends are expected to take the stand when Potter's trial resumes on Monday.

tara.bradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury


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