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Guards Refused to Call Ambulance for Teen Who Fatally Overdosed in Custody

The 17-year-old “was begging for his life,” according to inquest testimony.

by Allison Tierney
Dec 1 2017, 6:53pm

Photo via Flickr user 

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A 17-year-old boy died of a drug overdose while in custody in Saskatoon, according to a coroner’s inquest wrapping up this week. A youth facility worker, Angela Silva, testified that she asked at least eight times for her supervisors to call for an ambulance for the boy when he was overdosing in his cell, CBC News reports.

"His body started at one point shaking. He was on the floor flopping around,” Silva said. "He was begging for his life. He was begging for an ambulance.” According to the inquest, it took at least two hours for emergency medical services to be called and for him to be transported to hospital.

The teen died after being taken to hospital on July 30 and can’t be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He had been in custody after being arrested on July 25, 2015 for allegedly breaching a community supervision order.

The inquest heard that days before he died, the boy had smuggled meth into the juvenile detention centre in Saskatoon where he’d been held, Kilburn Hall Youth Centre. Silva said that the teen admitted to her that he had done a couple grams of meth; less than 30 minutes later, he was overdosing. (Other testimony at the inquest indicated that video footage showed the teenager doing drugs while in custody.)

“He was agitated, he was pacing… He right away said, 'Ang, you have to believe me, I'm overdosing, I took too much,’” she said.

Silva said that, based on advice from a nurse over the phone and belief that the teen was just going through withdrawal, supervisors refused to call for emergency medical response.

Supervisor Dale Larocque said that he didn’t have training that would make him capable of identifying an OD.

"Based on what the nurse told us and based on what I was seeing, I wasn't keen on sending anybody into the room… He wasn't articulating to me anything that would indicate he was having an overdose,” Larocque said.

Larocque testified that the teenager appeared to be withdrawing from "heavy drug use,” noting how the teen was scratching his arms.

During the inquest, Silva said she regretted not calling an ambulance by herself. According to other information presented to the coroner, one of the other workers did so without supervisor permission.

"Their freedoms are taken away, but their human rights should not be,” Silva said. I feel like he was failed that night.”

Jury recommendations are expected to come out this afternoon.