REGINA —The long-awaited inquest into the death of Samwel Uko has begun in Regina.
Uko died at Wascana Lake on May 21, 2020 after he reportedly sought help twice for mental health issues and was turned away at Regina General Hospital. The incident later prompted an apology from Saskatchewan Health Authority to Uko’s family, apologizing for failure to provide him with timely assistance.
The inquest, which was twice postponed due to COVID-19, is taking place at the Ramada Plaza, Regina and is scheduled to last the whole week.
At the end it is expected the jury will make determinations on how, when, where and by what means the death occurred, as well as offer possible recommendations for the future.
The inquest is being presided by Robert Kennedy, a Saskatoon lawyer who has been appointed as coroner for this case.
Jury selection began the proceedings at 10 a.m. on Monday and wrapped up at 10:30 a.m., with a full jury of six selected.
The indication from Kennedy is that upwards of 25 witnesses should be called through Thursday, with final instructions to the jury expected Friday morning.
When the inquest resumed at 11 a.m., Kennedy provided some further explanations to the jury regarding the proceedings, and summarized the time frame based on evidence expected.
He noted an unidentified man had called Regina Police Service identifying as Sam and wanted to go to the hospital. He was escorted out of the hospital without being treated. At approximately 7:36 p.m. there was a 911 call concerning a young, black man who had removed his jacket, T-shirt and keys and had submerged himself in Wascana Lake.
First witness called
The first witness called was Daniel Ripplinger, a firefighter with Regina Protective Fire Services who has worked there seven and a half years.
On questioning from coroner’s counsel Robin Ritter, Ripplinger testified that on May 21 he was on duty with the fire service and was dispatched to Wascana Lake with the call coming in to the hall at 19:58 p.m.
The nature of the call, he said, was a drowning or water rescue. As part of the response, the fire department responded with two trucks as well as a boat, which was carried down to the water at Wascana Lake.
Ripplinger remembers seeing Uko’s personal belongings as well as an “SHA business card” near the water.
After about an hour and 10 minutes of searching, the body of Samwel Uko was recovered. Ripplinger testified they had confirmed the recovery at 21:25 hours (9:25 p.m.) on May 21 at Wascana Lake, and until EMS arrived saw no sign of life.
On questioning from Reginald Watson, counsel for SHA, Ripplinger testified he had seen no signs of physical trauma, but he again testified about noticing the SHA business card.
The inquest was scheduled to resume at 1 p.m. today. Stay with SASKTODAY.ca for further updates.