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Coroner rules Castlegar shelter death as accidental

Coroner’s report says death caused by mixed illicit drug toxicity
The death occurred at the Castlegar & District Community Services Society’s homeless shelter operating in the yellow building pictured here. The shelter has since moved to a new location. Photo: Betsy Kline

The BC Coroners Service (BCCS) has ruled the Jan. 11, 2021 death of a resident of Castlegar’s Way Out Shelter as accidental.

It has taken BCCS two years to complete the report and declare that the death was caused by “mixed illicit drug toxicity.”

At the time of the death, the Way Out Shelter, which is run by Castlegar and District Community Services Society (CDCSS), was located at 1007 Second Street in downtown Castlegar.

According to the coroners report, shelter workers found the resident unresponsive on their bunk during a room check. Staff had last seen the resident approximately 30 minutes prior.

Staff called 9-1-1 and moved the resident to the floor in order to administer naloxone.

When paramedics arrived on scene, they administered another two doses of naloxone. However, the person remained unresponsive and was pronounced deceased.

The coroner that attended the scene discovered drug paraphernalia (glass pipes, lighter, drug baggie) in the room. They did not see any evidence of traumatic injury or foul play.

The coroner’s report says that the deceased had a history of illicit substance use based on medical records and family interviews. They had been prescribed opioid agonist therapy and been given naloxone on three separate occasions during the summer of 2020. There were also on a wait list for an addiction treatment facility.

Toxicology analysis revealed fentanyl within a lethal range and etizolam within a range typically associated with recreational use.

According to the report, the combined effects of fentanyl and etizolam can cause life-threatening respiratory depression and failure.

Illicit drug toxicity led to the deaths of six Castlegar residents in 2021, the year this death occurred, according to previously released data from BCCS.

CDCSS executive director Kristein Johnson declined to comment on the death back in 2021, citing confidentiality issues. However, the Castlegar News has reached out to the society and its executive director for a response to the new report. Board chair Linda McLaughlin says she will be consulting with shelter staff in order to answer our questions.

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Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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