Few answers after three die suddenly in downtown Edmonton park

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Three people died suddenly in a central Edmonton park Friday afternoon, but few answers about what happened were forthcoming from officials Saturday.

Ambulance crews were called to Kinistinâw Park around 4 p.m. Friday, where they found three people in medical distress. Paramedics determined they were in cardiac arrest and tried to resuscitate them, but all three died at the scene. The bodies were removed on stretchers later that evening.

The park, located at 103 Avenue and 96 Street in the Quarters district of the Boyle Street neighbourhood, was behind police tape Friday but police officials said the deaths do not appear to be criminal.

By Saturday afternoon, the park had returned to normal. Families and community members strolled under the distinctive red metal canopy or sat on benches, while down the block the Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market bustled with activity.

Angela Welz, an Edmonton member of the harm reduction group Moms Stop the Harm, believes the three likely suffered drug overdoses. According to the American Heart Association, cardiac arrest was a factor in more than 15 per cent of U.S. opioid overdose emergency medical service cases in 2016.


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“That’s kind of what we are all expecting to hear,” Welz said. “It’s just really sad.”

“Everybody’s assuming that that’s what it is,” she added. “And it should be confirmed one way or the other, because there are a lot of families impacted by this, and there are a lot of questions that are going to come out of this if in fact it is an overdose loss.”

Postmedia contacted multiple officials Saturday but received no further details about the causes of death or the people who died.

Alberta Health Services said it had no additional information, referring inquiries to the medical examiner. A spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office said they would have no details on the deaths until Tuesday at the earliest. When asked about the possibility of toxic drugs, AHS then referred Postmedia to Edmonton police, who did not respond to an email Saturday.

Welz, who lost her daughter Zoe in 2016 to fentanyl poisoning, was troubled by the lack of information on the long weekend.

“It’s really sad that three people dying doesn’t warrant any kind of announcement other than ‘more to come,’” she said.

She said Alberta does not track reports of toxic street drugs, as is done in neighbouring British Columbia. She also noted the recent closure of the Boyle Street supervised consumption facility, which shut its doors at the end of April.

“We know that there’s a toxic drug supply out there,” she said, calling overdose deaths “preventable.”

“There are alerts every day in B.C., they’re always alerting people … We don’t have that same capability here in Alberta, and we should.”


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Scott McKeen, city councillor for Ward 6, did not have any inside information about what happened but agreed that “by all appearances, this looks like death by overdose.”

“It’s a tragic reminder of this overdose epidemic that has largely been forgotten because of the (COVID-19) pandemic,” he said.

Both Welz and McKeen said they had not heard of three simultaneous fatal overdoses in such a public setting.

“I just find that stunning,” he said. “It’s just such a shock to hear there’s that kind of lethality to the illicit drug supply right now. It’s just scary.”

Last year was Alberta’s deadliest of the overdose crisis, with 1,316 drug-related deaths.

According to the city’s website, Kinistinâw is a Plains Cree word that means “us three.”

— with files from Lisa Johnson




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