Brock Eurchuk struggled to answer questions Tuesday during the second day of a coroner’s inquest into his son’s illicit-drug overdose death. Oak Bay teen Elliot Eurchuk, 16, was found dead in his bedroom at 7:30 a.m. on April 20, 2018, by his mother Rachel Staples.
The more lawyers requested brevity, the more Eurchuk used preambles with his answers. Asked to “focus” and stick to the questions, Eurchuk explained he has suffered from post traumatic stress disorder since losing Elliot.
Eurchuk, who described himself as Elliot’s primary care- giver since his son’s birth, said he can generally think clearly, if he can “detach.”
“But when I think of my son I get overwhelmed by emotion,” said Eurchuk. “I’ve been told that PTSD is as a result of trying to resuscitate Elliot.”
On April 20, 2018, “I was drawn upstairs by Rachel’s shrill scream and ran into his room,” said Eurchuk. “His eyes were open looking at the doorway. He had beautiful blue eyes. They were grey. He wasn’t moving and I proceeded to try to resuscitate him.
“The adrenalin coursing through my body was all I had,” Eurchuk said. “Those emotions attached to that incident make it very hard to communicate.”
Presiding coroner Michael Egilson, chair of the Child Death Review Unit for Office of the Chief Coroner, and a five-person jury will hear evidence from 40 witnesses scheduled over eight days.
Toxicologist Dr. Aaron Shapiro testified that a high concentration of fentanyl mixed with heroin and some methamphetamine depleted Elliot’s oxygen supply. Cocaine was also in his system.
Pathologist Dr. Alexander Finn agreed with Shapiro, adding that a mix of fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine caused Elliot’s death.
Under questioning from coroner’s counsel John Orr, Eurchuk agreed that Elliot had cut himself but initially thought that was more of a music and cultural thing — marking a cross on his arm, for instance — than an act to deal with distress or a call for help.
Eurchuk eventually researched reasons for why Elliot might cut his chest, and found one theory suggesting that it was a way for Elliot to deal with the shame of his drug use.
Finn later testified that an examination of Elliot’s body found several cuts that were healed into scars and others that were open. There was “quite a range.”
Elliot’s parents and Saanich Sgt. Damian Kowalewich testified that no suicide note was found.
His parents have maintained the overdose was accidental.
After recovering from an overdose while he was in hospital, Elliot said, “I wish I had died,” said Eurchuk. But both parents said this was their son’s attempt to hurt his mother, whom he blamed for getting him kicked out of Oak Bay High and sent to Mount Douglas Secondary.
Eurchuk talked at length about he and his wife “begging” hospital administrators not to discharge Elliot from hospital on Feb. 14, 2018. “On Feb. 12, I pleaded, we don’t know what’s going on here, no one is giving us information,” Eurchuk said. “I begged for that not to occur.”
Eurchuk said it was that overdose in Victoria General Hospital that was the “hammer on the head” in terms of his first realization of the degree of his son’s drug dependency.
After an appointment with Elliot’s doctor, he and his wife understood that their only option was to call police with information that would possibly lead doctors to commit Elliot under the Mental Health Act, Eurchuk said.
Upon being committed, his son refused to see him for two days and the locked-down atmosphere of the Victoria General Hospital pediatric psychiatric ward was “traumatizing,” Eurchuk said. While Elliot was there, one youth tried to stab herself with a fork and another tried to hang himself, he said.
After two days of proceedings, Eurchuk said he is disappointed in the inquest so far, finding it to be an “adversarial” process.
“It appears the advocates for the different bureaucracies — whether it be Vancouver Island Health Authority, the province, or the organizations for the teachers or physicians — are looking for answers to support the status quo and their clients, rather than trying to look at the experience we had trying to care for Elliot and the numerous flaws in the system and how we can correct those flaws.”