A college student has spoken out after her unattended wheelchair was seen pushed down a flight of stairs in what has become a viral video.
On March 19, Mercyhurst University student, Sydney Benes, 22, spoke with ABC News about the March 11 incident that occurred at Sullivan’s Pub in Erie, Pennsylvania.
“All that was going through my head was, ‘Man I hope this was an accident. I hope that this wasn’t on purpose,'” she said.
Benes became a double amputee following a car accident in 2021.
Nate Sanders, head of security at Sullivan’s Pub, told ABC News that he heard a noise “that sounded like somebody falling down the steps” as he was helping her into the restroom downstairs.
Carson Briere (in the white hat) is the son of Danny Briere the interim GM of the Philadelphia Flyers can be seen pushing down a wheel of a disabled young student who was using the restroom. pic.twitter.com/0jEf1NniAF
— AskAubry 🦝 (@ask_aubry) March 16, 2023
“We went out and checked, didn’t see any sign of anybody falling, but when it was time to bring her back up the stairs, we found her chair at the bottom of the steps,” he explained.
Both Benes and Sanders checked the security footage and were able to identify the culprit, Carson Briere, the son of Daniel Briere, the interim general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I grabbed him on the shoulders and said, ‘I’ve got video of you tossing a wheelchair down the steps like it’s time to go,'” Sanders said.
He then forced Briere and his friends to apologize to Benes and led them out of the bar.
“Carson was told to come and apologize to me before they kicked him out, and the apology was quite insincere,” Benes told Inside Edition. “People were saying, ‘Oh, he’s acting like a child. He is acting like a child.'”
She added, “No child would throw a wheelchair down the staircase.”
Sanders also told ABC News the two men, who are also students at Mercyhurst University, were banned from the bar as a result.
Briere, 23, and Patrick Carrozzi, 21, a member of the Mercyhurst men’s lacrosse team, have been charged by Erie City Police with criminal mischief and disorderly conduct, according to the Erie Times-News.
The younger Briere, a hockey player at Mercyhurst, issued a public apology after he and the two other student-athletes “were placed on an interim suspension from their athletic teams,” due to school policy, until further notice.
“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,” he said.
A GoFundMe was set up on Benes’ behalf for a new wheelchair. However, she said she will donate a portion of the money “to other causes” and “hopes this is an opportunity for change and fair treatment of people who are disabled,” per ABC News.
“I can use it to show people what we go through, what we have to deal with, and how we wish to be treated,” she said. “We are treated like things, like second-class citizens; we’re not treated with respect.”
Sullivan’s was built in 1892, about a century before the Americans with Disabilities Act went into effect, Erie Times-News reported. Co-owner Rick Filippi said he is working to make the bar more accessible.
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