REGINA — The family of a young man says he tried twice to get mental help at a hospital the day he drowned in a lake in Regina — and that he was taken there the second time, just hours before his apparent suicide, by police.
Samwel Uko’s relatives are trying to piece together the last moments of the 20-year-old’s life before emergency responders discovered his body in Wascana Lake three weeks ago.
Uko, who was from Abbotsford, B.C., had travelled to Saskatchewan’s capital to visit an aunt. While there, relatives said Uko told them he felt ill and was afraid people were coming after him. He said he wanted to go to a hospital.
His uncle Justin Nyee said the family has been trying to get answers about what happened at the Regina General Hospital on May 21.
During a recent phone conference with health officials, Nyee said it was revealed that Uko had visited the hospital twice the day he died. Initially, they had only known about a first visit in the morning.
Video surveillance shows Uko went back a second time later in the day with a police officer.
“Saskatchewan Coroners Service can confirm that they have surveillance footage and that Mr. Uko was brought to the emergency by the Regina Police Service to seek medical assistance,” Ministry of Justice spokeswoman Marieka Andrew said Thursday.
A police spokeswoman confirmed that a dispatch went out about 5:36 p.m. after Uko called 911. An officer in the area of Broadway Avenue and Winnipeg Street responded.
“The officer located the male, who would only say that he wanted to go to the hospital. He voluntarily got into the patrol car and the officer took him into the hospital to seek medical assistance,” said Elizabeth Popowich.
The officer stayed with Uko for awhile, she added.
“This death is still under investigation by the Saskatchewan Coroners Service. It’s not appropriate for us to say more.”
Nyee said he was told that Uko was eventually escorted out of the hospital by security and a nurse, because he didn’t provide his name inside.
It was shortly after that, about 7:30 p.m., that police have said witnesses reported seeing a man in the lake.
“According to the timing, that means he left the hospital and went straight to commit suicide,” said Nyee.
“I was so upset.”
The health authority said it is also doing a review and talking throughout the process with Uko’s family.
“We again wish to convey our condolences to the family and friends of this young man,” said spokeswoman Lisa Thomson. “This situation is heartbreaking for everyone involved.”
A cousin took Uko to the hospital the first time that morning, said Nyee. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the cousin was not allowed to accompany him inside.
Nyee said that in talking with health officials, it appears Uko then spoke with four nurses as well as a doctor and was found to be depressed.
Uko answered many questions, said the uncle, and told one nurse he had thought about hanging himself but couldn’t carry through with it.
Uko was prescribed some medication, referred to a mental-health clinic and given a 1-800 number to call for additional help, said Nyee.
After one hour and 45 minutes, he was released.
“How does a person who comes in the morning seeking help, you send them away and then they come back again in the evening — and this time they come with a police officer — and still, you kick him out?”
The family buried Uko last weekend in British Columbia. Nyee said they are waiting for more information from the investigations. They also plan to seek legal advice.
“The fight’s not going to be just for Samwel,” said Nyee. “It’s going to be for other people who might come after him.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 11, 2020.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press