Family welcomes inquest into Samwel Uko's death
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Coroner has announced that an inquest will be held into the death of Samwel Uko.
Uko, 20 at the time of his death, visited hospital in Regina twice on the day of his death, according to his family.
He was turned away both times by hospital staff, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) told the family. The second time, Uko was escorted out by security.
Word of the inquest is welcomed by Uko’s family, who previously requested one.
“For us as a family it’s very important to hear that. We have been asking questions which we don’t have answers to,” said Justin Nyee, Ukos’ uncle. “Doing the inquest, it might shed a light on what happened to Samwel when he went to hospital.”
“This will also provide some solutions to other people who still might be dealing with mental health issues. We don’t want someone else to go through what Samwel went through.”
Uko was seeking mental health assistance on May 21. After being turned away from the hospital once, he called 9-1-1 in a plea of help.
Uko was pronounced dead by EMS around 9:20 that evening, after his body was pulled from Wascana Lake.
His family believes his death to be the result of suicide.
Calls for an inquest were quick to reach the Legislature, not far from where Uko was found.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General Don Morgan says he contacted the province’s coroner Friday morning looking for a timeline of when an inquest could be called.
The coroner told him they were already planning on holding one, before deciding to go ahead with the announcement Friday following the family and public interest in the case.
“When you have the inquest, it will examine the sequence of events that lead up to his death,” Morgan said. “I’m hoping that there will be things that give his family some comfort and closure, it’s a horrible thing to lose a family member.”
“I’m hoping there’s some things that will give government the ability to improve processes and procedures. These are horrible things to have happen.”
The NDP officially raised the issue in question period Thursday prior to the announcement Friday morning.
“We’re happy that finally the government seems to have moved along on [the inquest],” NDP Leader Ryan Meili said following Friday’s session at the Legislature. “We will look forward to the results.”
Meili was also critical of the move’s timing, coming the same day a suicide prevention strategy brought forward by the opposition was voted down.
Minister of Health Jim Reiter said the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s own ongoing investigation into what happened the day of Uko’s death will also help determine any needed procedural changes on the healthcare side.
To date, when and where the inquest will be held has not been determined, the coroner citing the necessary adjustments for COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings as well as the need to schedule previously postponed inquests.