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Employee has heart attack after being spat on by customer refusing to wear a mask, hotel manager says

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Employee has heart attack after being spat on by customer refusing to wear a mask, hotel manager says

An accountant for a downtown Nelson, B.C., hotel had a heart attack and collapsed shortly after being spat upon by an angry customer refusing to wear a mask, according to the hotel manager.

The Nelson Police Department confirms it is investigating last Friday’s incident, in which the customer allegedly yelled at a barista who offered him a face covering at the Empire Coffee shop in the Adventure Hotel.

“[The suspect] was screaming profanities at the top of their lungs to the point that they [the staff of Empire Coffee] had to say, ‘Just get out!,'” said hotel manager Rob Little.

Little says after receiving a call from the coffee shop manager, he sent his accountant — a woman in her 50s — to see what was going on.

“It was at that point that the person was trying to enter again, Little said. And she said, ‘Listen! You’re not going to talk to our people this way, and this is the law.’ And he proceeded to spit on her.”

Rob Little, the general manager of the Adventure Hotel, says his accountant had a heart attack and collapsed an hour and a half after the encounter with the customer. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Little says police arrived and removed the suspect and took a statement from the accountant. 

About an hour and a half later after arriving back at the office, Little says, the accountant, who was distraught from the experience, reported feeling ill and fell to the ground. She was airlifted to a hospital in Kelowna where it was determined she had had a heart attack.

“She’s stable right now, but she’s not out of the woods by any stretch,” he said. 

The Kootenay city of over 10,000 has seen an increase in aggressive behaviours targeting customer service representatives, after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on Thursday that face coverings are now mandatory in all retail spaces.

This week, Kootenay Co-op — a grocery store near the hotel — hired a security guard for the first time in its 45 years to head off rude behaviour among some shoppers who are resisting the mask mandate.

“We all live here because of the quality of people that are here,” Little said. “To see this kind of polarizing views on things and people going to such extremes is just disappointing.”

Staff Sgt. Brian Weber says the Nelson Police Department is looking into the incident. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Staff Sgt. Brian Weber with the Nelson Police Department says police are looking at the relationship between the women’s heart attack and the incident with the customer. 

“There have been … some investigations that have made those causal links in the past,” he said. “[But] it’s far too early and I know far too little about the exact file to make that kind of jump right now.”

The suspect is facing an assault charge.

Tap the link below to listen to Bob Keating’s conversation with Rob Little and Staff Sgt. Brian Weber on Daybreak South:

Daybreak South4:49Nelson hotel accountant gets heart attack after being spat on by an anti-mask coffee shop customer

CBC reporter Bob Keating speaks to the hotel manager and a Nelson police officer about the ugly incident that happened last Friday. 4:49

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