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After the Cops Leave

Sep 1, 2006

by Cait Wills

There’s no way around it: death is inevitable. Brent Olynyk’s business, therefore, is assured.

Olynyk is the owner of Trauma Scene Bio Services Inc. He and his team decontaminate and deodorize death scenes after a body has been discovered, whether the result of criminal, accidental or natural causes. It’s not glamourous. It’s certain­ly not pretty. It’s a job few could do, but it’s one that Olynyk thrives on.

“My buddies drive fast for a thrill. I ha­n­dle viruses,” jokes the former member of the Strathcona County RCMP. After an accident eight years ago robbed him of his short-term memory, Olynyk had to reassess his position as a non-sworn member who worked the desk. He opted to start a business instead. Though he doesn’t ad­vertise and the RCMP and victims services units don’t make recommen­dations, his company’s name comes up when a death scene needs to be dealt with. “This allows me the freedom to do what I want,” he says, notably spending as much time as possible with his wife and two yo­ung daughters.

Olynyk loves his job, despite the stress and, quite frankly, gore that’s involved. But how does he deal with it? “People die every day. It’s a matter of their being found [quickly],” he says matter-of-factly. “Most people who die in their homes die ‘clean.’ They’re found right away. But if they’re not …” he trails off, then adds, “A body will begin to lose its fluids within 24 hours.” That fluid loss is what Olynyk and his team are trained to deal with.

Trauma Scene’s bio-recovery team is comprised of two men and five women. Contrary to the stereotype of weak-stomached shrinking violets, Olynyk’s female staff members are never squeamish and highly respected. “Females have a place in this business. They’re detailed cleaners,” says Olynyk. In the three years Trauma Scene has been running, he’s had no staff turnover, partly because of the care Olynyk takes to ensure employees aren’t in a physically or psychologically dangerous environment for too long. Each worker is only allowed to work for eight hours at a time, regardless of how complex the scene is.

“I’ll bring in as many people as I need to, but that job needs to be done in eight hours,” he says. “After every job we all go for a drink. I call it a ‘debriefing.’ I watch for signs of post-traumatic stress and I have counselling available for anyone who wants it,” although he says no one on his staff has required professional follow-up, mostly because they don’t rush and don’t take risks. Each technician is forbidden to enter a scene without being dressed appropriately, which means being covered from head to toe.
“There’s a real problem with cross-contamination at scenes,” he says. “We’re the only company in Alberta that is certified to handle bodily fluids,” says Olynyk. Those fluids can contain Hepatitis A through E, as well as HIV and e. coli, all dangerous if contracted. And because Alberta has no legislation about the transportation of blood, Olynyk’s company uses criteria from the American Bio-­Recovery Association as its standard for tr­ans­portation.

“The most important thing is that you’re careful,” says Olynyk, which Olynyk and his team always are. After all, “25,000 virons [virus particles] can produce a risk of exposure,” he says. “The tip of a needle can contain a drop of blood and that one drop of blood can contain up to 25 million virons.”

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