A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2020. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2020. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

‘Multiple patients’: Recordings of first responders reveal chaos in Nova Scotia mass-shooting

Recordings show attempts to help the first victims amid burning homes in the village of Portapique, N.S.

New details are emerging about the chaos that ensued as police in rural Nova Scotia tried to capture a killer disguised as an RCMP officer — and first responders tried to help a rapidly growing list of victims.

The search for the suspect stretched from late Saturday night to Sunday morning, when the death toll rose to 22 as the gunman evaded police by driving in a car identical to an RCMP cruiser.

Audio recordings of first responders communicating on two-way radios provide a glimpse of their frantic attempts to help the first victims found Saturday at 10:40 p.m. amid burning homes in the village of Portapique, N.S.

On one of the recordings, stored on the Broadcastify website, first responders dispatched to the scene along Highway 2 tell the dispatcher they can see something burning in the distance.

“I’m seeing huge flames and smoke from where we are,” says one, minutes before the dispatcher says police have discovered a gunshot victim on Portapique Beach Road.

Within the next 20 minutes, the extent of the carnage comes into sharp focus as police call for more ambulances — twice.

“There possibly could be other victims down by the scene but police are slowly bringing people out,” the paramedic says in a steady, even tone that speaks of his training.

Then the pace of his speech quickens.

“There’s a person down there with a gun,” he says.

“They’re still looking for him. The patient we have got shot by him. He was just down there observing the fire, checking out the fire. So there could be other patients around the fire that could be gone already, but we’re not sure.”

He indicates there is confusion in the darkness as police search for the killer.

“It’s very vague what’s going on down there, but there is for sure multiple patients down there,” he says.

By 11:20 p.m., the first responders are still unsure of what is going on.

“Do we know if they’ve caught the assailant?” one asks over the radio.

The dispatcher responds: ”No not for sure … They’re bringing victims out to that intersection from the actual scene. But no, they don’t know if they’ve caught him. I don’t know.”

It’s unclear exactly how many people were killed along Portapique Beach Road, which includes many seasonal and permanent homes along the picturesque north shore of Cobequid Bay.

Police confirmed Wednesday that the suspect managed to escape from a perimeter they had set up around the rural area, but they didn’t realize he was gone until some time between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Sunday when a witness revealed details about the fake police car.

At 8:02 a.m., police issued an alert on Twitter saying they were looking for an active shooter in the Portapique area.

Over a 12-hour period, 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman of Halifax killed 22 people — some he knew, others he met randomly as he fled.

His victims include an RCMP officer, two nurses, two correctional officers, a family of three, a teacher and some of his neighbours in Portapique.

Heavily armed RCMP officers fatally shot him at a gas station in Enfield, N.S., about 90 kilometres south of Portapique at around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

The motive for the slayings remains unclear.

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s police watchdog is investigating why two RCMP officers started shooting at a fire hall on Sunday morning even though the suspect is not believed to have been in the vicinity.

Pat Curran, interim director of the Serious Incident Response Team, said the officers fired their weapons around 10:30 a.m. at the Onslow-Belmont Fire Hall, near Truro.

The fire hall is about a half-hour drive from Portapique.

The Onslow Belmont Fire Brigade posted a message on Facebook saying the building was being used as refuge for evacuees from around Portapique Beach Road when it was pelted by bullets on Sunday morning.

The Facebook post, which has since been deleted, says the gunfire caused considerable damage to the fire hall but no one was injured. The brigade, which declined a request for comment, confirmed on Facebook that the post was meant to clarify Sunday’s events and not fuel “conspiracy theories” about the shooter.

Police say the investigation into the killings is complex because there are 16 crime scenes spread over a wide stretch of northern Nova Scotia. A total of five structures were set on fire, though the exact sequence of events remains unclear.

Police said the gunman acted alone during his violent rampage, but investigators said they are trying to determine whether anyone assisted him before the shooting began.

— With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter and Adina Bresge

Michael MacDonald, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Kitimat RCMP are requesting assistance locating 24-year-old Teah Wilken, who was last seen getting on a bus at City Centre Mall in Kitimat around 6:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 23). Kitimat RCMP Facebook photo.
Kitimat RCMP requesting assistance locating missing woman

Wilken last seen getting on bus at City Centre Mall in Kitimat around 6:30 p.m. Monday (Nov. 23)

Maria Lewis president of the Prince Rupert Royal Canadian Legion accepts a $5,000 donation gifted via an artillery shell from Shawn MacDonald governor of the Prince Rupert Loyal Order of the Moose 1051 on Nov. 13.
Major donation overwhelms Prince Rupert Legion

Prince Rupert Moose Lodge 1051 donates $5,000 to local veterans organization

Air Canada /Jazz flight AC8280 on Nov. 16 from Vancouver to Prince Rupert had a confirmed case of COVID-19, said Air Canada on Nov. 20. (File photo)
Flight into city had confirmed case of COVID-19

Nov. 16 flight from Vancouver to Prince Rupert affected by coronavirus

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

7-year-old Mackenzie Hodge from Penticton sent a hand-written letter to premiere John Horgan asking if she’d be able to see her elf, Ralph under the new coronavirus restrictions. (John Horgan / Twitter)
Elf on the shelf an acceptable house guest, B.C. premier tells Penticton girl

A 7-year-old from Penticton penned a letter asking if she’d be allowed to see her elf this year

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

Most Read