Vancouver Island students are mourning the loss of another classmate to a suspected overdose.
The West Shore RCMP and B.C. Coroners Service were called to a Langford residence Thursday afternoon after the sudden death of a teenage girl.
Neither organization could confirm the identity of the deceased or the cause of death since the investigation is ongoing. No arrests have been made in connection to the death.
Friends and family later identified the deceased on social media as Abby Barker, indicating she died of what they believed to be a suspected overdose. They plan to hold a pre-memorial Wednesday afternoon to share treasured stories about her life.
A spokesperson for the Sooke School District would not comment on this specific case but noted “when incidents such as this happen in the community and touch our school communities, we have a critical incidence response team that assists staff and students to access the help they may need. Parents that may have concerns can connect with the schools directly and will be supported as well.”
Island Health issued a warning last Wednesday after overdoses in Greater Victoria had doubled in the past week due to a stronger supply of drugs.
A number of communities on the Island and across B.C. have recently seen a similar spike.
There is an average of four overdoses a week in Greater Victoria that are recorded, according to Dr. Dee Hoyana, an Island Health medical health officer.
Carfentanil was detected in some of the drugs tested but at the time the warning was issued, Hoyana said Island Health couldn’t be certain it was responsible for the increase in overdoses.
It has been just over a year since the sudden death of a Belmont student.
On June 3, 2018, Grade 10 Belmont student Dorrian Wright died of a suspected overdose. He was 16. While his name was never officially released, friends confirmed his identity at the time. They also confirmed Wright had been in the foster care system.
The cause of his death has also not been officially confirmed.
According to data from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, there were 13 fatalities in 2018 involving children in care and receiving services under the Child, Family and Community Service Act. Five of those deaths were from natural causes, four were accidents, two were suicides and two are still undetermined (open cases).
There were also 61 deaths in 2018 involving children receiving services but not in care. Of those, 60 were classified as natural, 22 accidental, two were homicides, seven were suicides, and nine were undetermined (seven cases still open, two closed).
The B.C. Coroners Service confirmed an investigation remains open involving the death of a teenage boy from last June, that matches Wright’s case description. However, due to privacy, the Coroners Service could not confirm the identity of the individual involved in that open case.
The Coroners Service would not speculate on when that investigation may be completed as a number of factors can influence the timeline.
Earlier that same year, 16-year-old Elliot Eurchuk died from an opioid overdose. Eurchuk was found unresponsive with a fatal mixture of drugs in his system on April 20, 2018, in his family’s Oak Bay home.
A coroner’s inquest into the events that led to his death was held in June. After hearing about two weeks of heartbreaking stories from family and friends and mixed testimony from experts, the five-person jury produced seven recommendations. Those recommendations included developing early detection systems for mental health and substance use disorders in schools; plans for transitioning youth through different stages of treatment and back into community services; more education for students, parents and guardians; and more access to mental health and substance use disorder treatments in B.C.
But these three students haven’t been the only teenagers lost in recent years to the opioid crisis in Greater Victoria. In 2016, two Victoria High School students died of opioid overdoses as well. Their deaths were followed by that of 17-year-old Esquimalt teen Heather McLean, who died from an overdose during the 2017 Easter long weekend.
– With files from Karissa Gall, Shalu Mehta and Kendra Crighton