10/24/13 - Waterloo Record - Mississauga man detained in Cuba after serious car accident
MISSISSAUGA Friends and family of a Mississauga man are calling on the
Canadian government to take further action to ensure he's brought home
after being detained in Cuba for months following a car accident.
Damian Buksa, 34, headed down to the island nation by himself in July for
a two-week holiday in the Holguin area. According to his friend Peter
Zawadzki, Buksa rented a car and hired a Cuban man to act as a guide to
show him the country.
About six days into his trip, the pair got into a bad car crash. The man
was killed and a young woman was injured but reportedly has since
recovered. Buksa himself was hurt in the crash with Zawadzki saying he
suffered a serious head injury and injuries to his face and legs.
The engineer was taken to hospital where Zawadzki said Cuban authorities
informed his friend he had to pay more than $9,000 for the vehicle that
was destroyed along with medical costs for the girl who was injured before
he would be allowed to leave the country. Buksa's mother, Boguslawa Pec,
said Buksa paid the bills on his credit card but that's when the story
from officials changed.
Pec said Buksa was told he wouldn't be able to leave until an
investigation was completed. He's currently still in Cuba.
"There's a big issue about Damian's health because he didn't receive
proper medical care," said Zawadzki. "He's lost a lot of weight and
apparently he keeps passing out. Our biggest concern is his health."
Family and friends are saying Buksa's situation is eerily similar to that
of fellow Canadian Cody LeCompte, a teenager who was detained in Cuba for
over three months in 2010 after being involved in a car accident.
"It seems like the (Canadian) government doesn't want to do anything,"
said Pec, who spoke with her son Wednesday. "I want them to push the Cuban
authorities to finish this as soon as possible. This is devastating and my
heart is broken."
Ian Trites, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development
Canada, told The News they're providing aid to Buksa but couldn't go into
specifics due to privacy concerns.
"Canadian consular officials in Guardalavaca, Cuba are in contact with
local authorities to gather additional information and are providing
consular assistance to the affected Canadian citizen as required," said
Trites in an e-mail.
In travel advice for Cuba, the federal government warns that traffic
accidents are a "frequent" reason for Canadians in Cuba to be arrested and
"Accidents resulting in death or injury are treated as crimes and the onus
is on the driver to prove innocence," reads the advisory. "Regardless of
the nature of the accident, it can take five months to a year for a case
to go to trial. In most cases, the driver will not be allowed to leave
Cuba until the trial has taken place."
However, waiting isn't what Buksa's friends and family want to do.
"He goes on vacation, has this thing happen to him and now he's stuck in a
foreign country by himself," said Zawadzki. "The government should get him
out of the country or (pressure) the Cuban government (to let him return
Pec said she has reached out to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's
office for help and has also been in contact with officials with the
Consulate General of Cuba.
She said her son is living on credit cards, is in extremely poor health
and doesn't speak the language.
"He's very upset and he's scared," said Pec.
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