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Sudden death at Oaklands Park leaves campers on edge

Victoria police say foul play is not suspected in the death of man on Sunday. The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating.
Ken, who has been living at Oaklands Park since November, sits at the spot where he said a man had suddenly died on Sunday, June 23, 2024. Victoria police said no foul play is suspected. TIMES COLONIST

A sudden death on Sunday at a Victoria park has left people camping there on edge.

Victoria police advised people to avoid the park on Sunday afternoon for about 30 minutes without specifying the reason. “There is no risk to the public but families are advised to avoid the park for now,” police said in a notice posted on social media.

The area was given the all-clear shortly after 3 p.m.

Victoria police spokesperson Cheryl Major told the Times Colonist that police responded to a sudden death at Oaklands Park.

Major said no foul play was suspected and referred further inquiries to the B.C. Coroners Service.

B.C. Coroners Service spokesperson Amber Schinkel said the service is unable to comment on the death due to an active investigation.

On Sunday afternoon, families could be seen at Oaklands Park playing softball and tennis. A lemonade stand was set up not far from where a father was teaching his child to ride a bike.

Ken, who has been living at the park since November, said the body was found near the park’s baseball diamond.

He now believes the person was dead by 7 a.m. when he walked by and saw no movement from the person, who was covered by several blankets.

Ken said he’s surprised that no one had tried to wake the person up until the afternoon. “As soon as it hit 12 p.m., the sun’s directly above you,” he said. “If he didn’t die from an OD, he died from the heat.”

Four people camping at Oaklands Park, including Ken, said they did not know the person who died.

Cailin, who has been in and out of homelessness for the past five years, said that most people in the area know to come to the southern end of Oaklands Park to use drugs so that someone can help in the event of an overdose.

About a dozen people are living in Oaklands Park, though the number varies from day to day as people move back and forth from other parts of the city, including the 900-block of Pandora Avenue, Cailin said.

“We provide safe supplies to people if they need them,” said Amanda, another camper. “We have boxes to put the sharps in.”

Ken said one or two overdoses occur every month in the park due to the poisoned illicit-drug supply. Sunday’s death was the first one that he knew of at Oaklands Park, he said.

Emergency responders dealt with another medical emergency near the park shortly after 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The campers said that it was an overdose of a man who regularly camped at Oaklands Park.

After speaking about the death, some campers left the park to visit Substance UVic, a drug-testing service in North Park.

Ken, a former restaurant cook who has been homeless since February 2023, said he would have tried harder to keep his room at a supportive housing facility if he knew what it was like for people who are sleeping rough.

“I literally used to never leave my room. I would just go to work and come home to play VR systems all day,” he said. “If I knew how bad it would be just to be out here, I would’ve fought so much harder.”

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