AGLC inspector tells fatality inquiry Edmonton bars should have warming areas after 2 men died

Click to play video: 'AGLC inspectors testify during Edmonton fatality inquiry into deaths of 2 men'
AGLC inspectors testify during Edmonton fatality inquiry into deaths of 2 men
Two AGLC inspectors testified at the fatality inquiry of two young men who died from hypothermia after attending The Ranch Roadhouse nightclub in south Edmonton. The inspectors were asked if lessons could be learned from the nightclub’s handling of the situations to avoid future tragedies. Slav Kornik reports. – Dec 5, 2023

A fatality inquiry continued Tuesday for two young men who were found dead in freezing conditions after leaving a south Edmonton nightclub — one in November 2017 and the other in November 2018.

The proceedings are set to last all week.

Eighteen-year-old Tyler Emes, a university student, was found dead outside the Ranch Roadhouse in the snow on Nov. 19, 2017.

A year later, on Nov. 18, 2018, 20-year-old Mohamed Munyeabdi was found dead and partially frozen under a car near Calgary Trail and 63 Avenue.

Click to play video: 'Family of Mohamed Abdi wants south Edmonton bar shut down'
Family of Mohamed Abdi wants south Edmonton bar shut down

On Tuesday, Marnie Mills, who was an inspector for Alberta Gaming Liquor and Cannabis (AGLC), testified. Mills said she was assigned to inspect the Ranch over a period of time during which Emes died.

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Mills told the inquiry that after Emes’ death, she received an email complaint about the circumstances surrounding his death. Mills also said she reached out to her supervisor for guidance and then Edmonton police to ensure she wasn’t interfering with their investigation.

Mills told the inquiry that Edmonton Police Service Sgt. Colin Simpson told her the homicide unit was contacted in December 2017. Mills said she reached out to police again in January and a detective told her police were able to track Emes’ movements the night of his death and “it appeared the bar wasn’t neglectful.”

According to Mills, police said Emes didn’t look drunk when he arrived at the Ranch. She was told he and a group ordered 10 shots and that Emes drank every other shot himself — four to five shots. Mills said police told her Emes didn’t appear drunk when he left a short time later. However, she said Emes looked drunk on video footage from outside the bar a short time later.

Security footage played at the inquiry Tuesday showed Emes entering the bar and having shots. Body camera footage from security personnel shows Emes leaving the bar, waving goodbye to the security staff at the front door, then standing in the parking lot outside the Ranch.

Another piece of security footage shows Emes staggering by himself at around 2 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2017, on a service road shortly after leaving the Ranch.

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After the video was shown, Mills said she’s never seen any of that footage before. Her conclusions were made from what police told her. She said that after watching the footage, she would have approached the process differently in 2017.

Click to play video: 'Fatality inquiry begins into hypothermia deaths of 2 men outside Edmonton bar'
Fatality inquiry begins into hypothermia deaths of 2 men outside Edmonton bar

Mills told the inquiry it would be normal “sometimes” to rely solely on the police investigation in a case like this.

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The AGLC didn’t investigate Emes’ death, Mills said, and didn’t look at the footage.

When presenting officer, lawyer Jessica Flanders, asked if it would be a breach of AGLC policy to not follow up if Emes had four shots in that short period of time, Mills said yes.

Mills also said Emes shouldn’t have been allowed to order 10 shots at one time. Mills said AGLC should have investigated Emes being allowed to order that many drinks.

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The footage is from only one bar at the nightclub, but Mills said it’s possible Emes could have ordered drinks from a different bar inside the nightclub and that wasn’t caught on video.

Douglas Boyer, a defence lawyer from McLennan Ross, representing The Ranch Roadhouse nightclub, asked Mills if she saw the nightclub making any breaches in the video. Mills pointed to the alcohol service cap, saying the policy is no more than two drinks per person after one is in their possession. Emes buying so many shots at once could have been a breach, Mills said, but noted there’s a grey area because Emes was sharing them with a group of friends.

She said she doesn’t know if the Ranch had a process for helping patrons get home if needed. She also said she doesn’t recall seeing a policy at the Ranch regarding patrons and cold weather.

On Monday, Dr. Bernard Bannach, a forensic pathologist, said it was determined that Emes died due to hypothermia.

It was also determined that Emes was intoxicated. His blood alcohol level was 2.1 g/L, which is two-and-a-half times over the legal limit. In that state, Bannach said a person would likely be confused, lack awareness of their surroundings and lack coordination.

The temperature that night was slightly below zero, the inquiry heard Monday.

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Mills told the inquiry on Tuesday that Emes leaving without a coat could have alerted staff.

Click to play video: 'Man found dead after leaving south Edmonton bar'
Man found dead after leaving south Edmonton bar

Another AGLC inspector, Andrew Wieb, received two complaints after Munyeabdi’s November 2018 death.

He told the inquiry Tuesday that he reached out to police, then spoke to the Ranch manager, got statements from staff and conducted interviews. Wieb said he came to the conclusion that there were no clear AGLC policy infractions.

Primarily, Wieb said he looked at alcohol consumption. A bar isn’t supposed to sell alcohol to someone who is exhibiting intoxication, he explained.

Wieb said a security guard saw that Munyeabdi appeared intoxicated and was asked to leave. A friend who didn’t seem intoxicated was asked to make sure he got home safely, Wieb said.

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In his report, Wieb wrote that Munyeabdi was seen stumbling in the security footage. Wieb said at that point, he concluded Munyeabdi was intoxicated.

The AGLC doesn’t have a policy that a patron has to leave a venue if they’re intoxicated, Wieb said. He told the inquiry he thinks the Ranch staff were trying to ensure safety at that point.

Security video shared at the inquiry shows Munyeabdi outside the Ranch shortly before 11 p.m. A security guard says Munyeabdi split his lip after falling down. The video appears to show Munyeabdi’s feet in the parking lot after the alleged fall. At around 11:20 p.m., the video shows a security guard walk up to Munyeabdi and say: “You’re too drunk to be in here.”

The 20 year old replies: “I’m too drunk?” to which the guard says: “Yeah.” Munyeabdi is seen walking away from the Ranch.

Wieb added that security footage showed Munyeabdi lying in the parking lot outside the Ranch, then getting up and running away. The friend told the security guard he couldn’t find Munyeabdi, Wieb said.

Watching the video back, Wieb said “more could have been done to make sure he could have been safe.” However, Wieb said he didn’t put that in his initial report because staff are not required to do more in a situation like that. And, since Munyeabdi ran away, Wieb said he isn’t sure what more they could have done to ensure his safety.

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At 11:45 p.m., the video shows Munyeabdi falling in the adjacent car dealership lot, getting up and walking next to a vehicle. Another person is seen briefly near the vehicle and Munyeabdi is then seen walking around the dealership lot again.

Click to play video: 'Fatality inquiry begins into hypothermia deaths of 2 men outside Edmonton bar'
Fatality inquiry begins into hypothermia deaths of 2 men outside Edmonton bar

On Monday, Dr. Cecilia Wu, a forensic pathologist, told the inquiry that Munyeabdi was wearing jeans but had no shirt on when he was found, which she explained is not unusual for someone with hypothermia as they often remove clothes.

When he was found, Mynyeabdi was intoxicated, the inquiry heard, with a blood alcohol level of 2.44 g/L, three times the legal limit.

It was about -18 C the night he died, the inquiry heard.

Wieb told the inquiry nothing in the video changes his initial report findings.

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He said he’d like to see a venue have a cold weather policy when it comes to ensuring the safety of patrons. He recommended a requirement for venues to have “warming areas.”

However, he said AGLC does not currently have a policy requiring venues to ensure patrons get home safely nor is there a policy requiring venues to conduct “parking lot sweeps.”

Click to play video: 'Annual Best Bar None program keeps patrons safe at Edmonton bars'
Annual Best Bar None program keeps patrons safe at Edmonton bars

Wieb did not make any recommendations to the Ranch following his investigation. He said it’s not something he would do in his role.

The Ranch Roadhouse permanently closed on June 8, 2019, and was replaced by Midway Music Hall.

Fatality inquiries do not assign blame. A judge hears evidence and then presents a report which can make recommendations intended to prevent similar deaths.

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The inquiry is being heard by Justice C. D. Godfrey.

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