Double Amputee Speaks Out After NHL Exec’s Kid Pushed Her Wheelchair Down Stairs
The woman who had her wheelchair inexplicably shoved down a flight of stairs by an NHL team exec and ex-player’s son has spoken out about the shocking incident captured on camera—saying she plans to not accept “a cent” of the approximately $9,000 that’s been raised for her.
Sydney Benes, 22, tweeted late Wednesday night that she’s “so thankful” for the support of staff at the pub—Sullivans in Erie, Pennsylvania—and to the hundreds of messages of support she’s received.
“It was my chair that was pushed down the stairs,” Benes posted. “I’m so thankful for all of Sullivan’s help in this situation and the kind comments I see on Julia’s post. I swear I really don’t wanna keep a cent of the donated money, I’d much rather give it to those who need it.”
A GoFundMe for Benes, organized by the bar’s security manager, Nathaniel Sanders, says she’s a double amputee who relies on a wheelchair to get around as she learns to use her prosthetics.
Sanders said he’s the person who carried Benes to the bar’s first floor on Saturday so she could use the bathroom—briefly leaving her wheelchair unattended at the top of a staircase. Seconds later, college hockey player Carson Brière, the 23-year-old son of Philadelphia Flyers interim general manager Daniel Brière, hopped in the wheelchair while seemingly joking with a friend. He then stood up and shoved the wheelchair down a staircase as he and the other man smirked.
The duo quickly walked toward the bar’s dance floor after making the push.
The incident was captured by security cameras and was shared to Twitter, where it’s been viewed 33 million times since Tuesday morning.
I usually don’t post anything serious on my twitter but something happened Saturday night and just can’t stomach the thought of this kid getting away with it. In the video below is a @MercyhurstU student and is currently on the @HurstMensHockey team. Carson Briere. pic.twitter.com/kWWlEYEc7V
— julia (@juliazukowski) March 14, 2023
“I usually don’t post anything serious on my Twitter but something happened Saturday night and (I) just can’t stomach the thought of this kid getting away with it,” Julia Zukowski wrote in the tweet, which also identified Brière by name.
Mercyhurst University, the small Catholic university where Brière has been a standout center since 2021, released a statement to admonish his behavior but didn’t announce any punishment.
“The actions displayed in the video make our hearts heavy and fall short of our Mercy belief in the inherent dignity of each person,” the statement said. “We pray for and are in solidarity with the victim and all persons with disabilities.”
The school’s athletic department said Wednesday that Brière and two other unnamed student athletes were suspended from team activities as it investigates what happened. The hockey season for Mercyhurst ended earlier this month, however, so Brière isn’t at imminent risk to miss any games.
Both Brière and his dad apologized in separate statements released Wednesday.
“There is no excuse for my actions and I will do whatever I can to make up for this serious lack of judgment,” the younger Brière’s statement read in part.
“I was shocked to see Carson's actions in the video shared on social media yesterday,” Brière’s father wrote in his statement. “They are inexcusable and run completely counter to our family's values on treating people with respect. Carson is very sorry and accepts full responsibility for his behavior.”
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Saturday’s incident isn’t the first time Brière has been in hot water with his collegiate team. He was kicked off Arizona State University’s hockey team as a redshirt freshman for being a serial partier, he told College Hockey News. Mercyhurst was going to be his second chance.
“I was just going out; I wasn’t taking hockey seriously,” Brière said in 2021 about his release from ASU. “It wasn’t anything bad, it was just not being committed to hockey, I was more committed to having fun at school. Too much partying, that’s probably the best way to put it.”
The wheelchair’s plunge resulted in a broken armrest and other parts bent, FOX 59 reported.
Benes did not respond to interview requests from The Daily Beast.
Local news reports indicate that Brière was quickly identified as the person behind the push on Saturday night. “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 told WJET.
Sullivans, where the incident occurred, was built before the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990, Sanders said, and was thus grandfathered in to have only first-floor bathrooms and no elevator. He said security has to carry anyone down the stairs and back up if they need to use the bathroom but can’t make the trip on their own.
Sanders also identified the second person who appeared to help Brière push the wheelchair as Patrick Carozzi, a lacrosse player at Mercyhurst.
No criminal charges have been announced by police in Erie for either athlete, though Benes’ GoFundMe says she filed a police report this week.
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