The Toronto Star
Friday, April 11, 1997

Injured Internet man saved by N.B. woman

LONDON (CP) -- In Scrabble, the letter Y may only be worth four points, but to a man in England who collapsed at his computer while playing the game on the Internet it may have been worth his life.

John Elliott, 24, who has cerebral palsy, was at home in Didcot, in central England, playing Scrabble with a friend in New Brunswick on the Internet when he suffered a spasm. He fell off his chair, dragging the computer keyboard to the floor with him.

``All of a sudden I lost him'', said Carla MacInnis Rockwell, his cyberspace Scrabble partner 5,000 kilometres away in Stanley, N.B. ``Then he came back on channel and said he fell out of his wheelchair. I asked him if he was hurt, and he was able to indicate that he was with a Y.''

MacInnis Rockwell, a freelance writer who also has cerebral palsy, phoned the local RCMP detachment and explained that her friend in England needed help.

Corp. Mike Arsenault contacted an Interpol officer at RCMP headquarters in Ottawa, who in turn notified the Interpol office in London.

They launched an eight-hour search involving emergency services in the United States, Canada and Britain. Calls were also made to police in the Isle of Man to find Enterprise, Elliott's Internet provider.

An executive of the firm was awakened to check customer records and supplied an address in Didcot.

But when police went there, they found Elliott had moved.

The search ended when a freelance journalist was asked by police in Elliott's home town to help. He found Elliott.

By the time police arrived, Elliott had regained consciousness. But he could not remember much about the incident.

``I went dizzy and that was it. My keyboard is lying on the floor by me and so is the phone. I must have managed to send a message asking for help, but I really cannot remember much about it'', he said.


Copyright © 1997 by Canadian Press. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.