A well-known Saanich homeless person known as ‘Mayor Dave’ died of an “unintentional illicit drug overdose” involving fentanyl.
So reads the final coroner’s report into the death of Dave Armitage, the 58-year-old Saanich man found dead on Dec. 28, 2016 in Gorge Park.
The report signed by Terry Dixon of the B.C. Coroners Service lists “Fentanyl toxicity” as the immediate cause of death with hypothermia listed as the other significant condition contributing to death.
“Mr. Armitage was not a known user of illicit drugs,” writes Dixon in his report. “When found, no drug paraphernalia was found in the area. An external examination of the body found no indication of how the drugs were ingested. There was no sign of injury or trauma and no indication of foul play.”
Dixon’s report states the toxicological analysis of Armitage’s blood showed the “presence of fentanyl, cocaine and benzolecgonine,” a metabolite of cocaine. “The fentanyl level was found to be within a range where therapeutic and non-lethal concentrations overlap. Cocaine benzolecgonine (a cocaine metabolite) was detected, showing recent use.”
These findings lead Dixon to a conclusion that Armitage’s death was “accidental.” The report does not include any recommendations for further actions.
This places Armitage as part of the 670 British Columbians, who were found to have fentanyl or its analogues in their system following their death. In 2017, this number had risen to 1,156, a 73 per cent increase. In 2017, officials detected fentanyl or its analogues in about 81 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths, according to a report from the B.C. Coroners Service.
The report does not say how or from whom Armitage had acquired the fentanyl. This said, the report helps fill out – albeit only partially – the puzzle that was Armitage.
While living in the Gorge-Tillicum area of Saanich, Armitage crossed countless social barriers in striking up friendships with individuals from a wide variety of walks of life living in and outside area. He befriended community leaders, local entrepreneurs, their staff and their clients, and his death prompted a public outpouring of grief.
In fact, more than an estimated 200 people crowded into a Saanich church on Jan. 15, 2017 to remember Armitage as a person who gave so much to his community despite having so little himself.
The 58-year-old man had struggled with homelessness and hereditary schizophrenia prior to his death.
The report notes that Armitage had last been seen alive on Dec. 27, 2016 by workers in a nearby mall.
A week after Armitage’s death, Saanich residents also mourned the death of Peter Verin, whom many had known as the Shopping Cart Philosopher.