Pubdate: Thu, 29 Nov 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts, Times Colonist
Bookmark: (Treatment)


B.C. should have more funded treatment facilities for people with 
mental-health and drug problems, a coroner's jury looking into the 
death of a cocaine addict recommended yesterday evening.

David Kenneth Smelts, a 45-year-old cocaine addict, died Oct. 6, 
2006, after crashing his car on the Trans-Canada Highway near Millstream Road.

The jury found that Smelts's death was accidental and said law 
enforcement and emergency personnel "acted in an appropriate, 
efficient and professional manner."

His sister Maureen Munro testified at a B.C. coroner's inquest 
yesterday that Smelts asked for help on many occasions, adding, "They 
would talk to him for a while and give him a pamphlet."

Munro argued people like her brother should receive mental-health 
treatment along with addiction counseling. "Mental health and drug 
addiction go hand in hand. You cannot treat them separately."

Dianne Schwab, another of Smelts's four sisters, testified that her 
brother, who at one time owned a successful computer business, likely 
struggled with depression his entire life. "David never really 
learned a lot of the coping skills you use before you turn to 
something like drugs or alcohol."

The six-person inquest jury also heard testimony from a pathologist, 
who concluded the cause of death to be cocaine intoxication.

Other testimony revealed Smelts was delirious and flailing when 
police, paramedics and passersby came to help minutes after the 
crash. Even sitting in his damaged car, Smelts was struggling to 
inject himself with more cocaine and 10 needles were found in his car.

The inquest heard a videotaped statement yesterday from Westshore 
RCMP Const. Claudia Wytrwal, who said one police officer called for a 
Taser to restrain Smelts. But Wytrwal said she radioed that using a 
Taser on somebody undergoing excited delirium might not be advisable.

Police restrained Smelts bodily and put him in handcuffs. Seconds 
later, they noticed his heart had stopped beating.

Paramedics worked to revive Smelts, but he was declared dead on 
arrival at hospital.

The inquest was mandatory under B.C. law because police had 
technically taken Smelts into custody at the time of his death. The 
goal is not to find fault but to recommend ways to prevent future, 
similar deaths.
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