REGINA – Details surrounding the moments after the discovery of a man not breathing in the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre received focus during a coroner’s inquest. Vance Dallas Ray Bellegarde, 39, was found lying in his bunk on the evening of Aug. 6, 2020, by Corrections Officer Rebecca Stilborn during a routine check on inmates.
When asked about that moment by inquest counsel Robin Ritter, Stilborn explained how she looked into the cell, noticed Bellegarde laying on the top bunk facing the wall. She then asked Bellegarde’s cellmate to check on him, who replied Bellegarde was sleeping. Stilborn continued her checks, but felt unsure about Bellegarde’s condition, returning to the cell and asking the other inmate to once again check on Bellegarde’s status. She then recalled asking fellow officer Garfield Thompson to join her, entering the cell to verify Bellegarde’s well-being.
The pair discovered Bellegarde was not breathing, and they could not find a pulse. A Code Blue was called, and efforts to revive Bellegarde began.
Ritter asked about the man’s condition prior to entering his cell as Stilborn had escorted the man from the admitting area to Unit 6B.
“Nothing stood out in terms of medical distress at all for me,” said Stilborn, noting both herself and Bellegarde were slightly out of breath and sweating due to the hot summer temperatures as they walked to Unit 6B. She described him as being friendly, making small talk as they walked.
“He seemed not in a rush to get there,” Stilborn recalled. “No one’s ever in a great mood when they come into the facility.”
Thompson was the officer who admitted Bellegarde to the cell, noting he displayed quite a different demeanour during his orientation process.
“I remember he was very incoherent, he wasn’t understanding anything I was saying,” Thompson said, giving testimony via phone call. “After about a minute, I ended the orientation session with him and sent him upstairs. He was talking and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.”
Further testimony on the second day of the inquest highlighted this change in Bellegarde.
“Compared to some of the other fellows, you could have a conversation with him, he was coherent,” said Yvette Carles, a classifications officer at RPCC with almost 35 years experience. Carles had also formed somewhat of a rapport with Bellegarde, having interacted with him since 2015, even referring to him by first name during her testimony.
Carles’ interaction with Bellegarde began just after 4 p.m., while Thompson started his attempt at an orientation process at 4:38 p.m.
Also appearing was the nurse who assessed Bellegarde’s level of alcohol withdrawal. In a series of questions performed through interview with an inmate and personal observation, Bellegarde scored seven of a possible 67 on the scale - noted as “mild,” and nurse Nicole Dunn ordered over-the-counter pain remedies such as Tylenol and Gravol for Bellegarde.
Her time with Bellegarde began at 3:03 p.m. for the eight-minute assessment.
Further medical testimony is expected to be heard as the second day of the inquest proceeds at the Holiday Inn & Suites in east Regina, with a decision from the jury anticipated to be reached on Feb. 8.