RCMP, coroner investigating death of 6-year-old boy in Port Alberni

The child attended Haahuupayak Elementary School, which will be closed for the rest of the week out of respect for the family. Google Street View

Communities in Port Alberni are mourning the unexplained death of a six-year-old boy Tuesday.

RCMP were called to a home on 8th Avenue around 9:30 Tuesday morning, where they found the child in medical distress. He was rushed to hospital but later died.

Police say they are investigating what happened along with the B.C. Coroners Service, adding the public is not at risk.

READ MORE: BC organization applauds ruling ordering Ottawa to reimburse First Nations child welfare agencies

“We have to deal with taking all precautions in an investigation: look into the matter, investigate it fully, and then we’ll figure out what happened and go from there,” Port Alberni RCMP Cpl. Amelia Hayden said.

Hayden would not give any details about how the boy died, saying the investigation is still in its early stages.

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The child was a student at Haahuupayak Elementary and lived on the Tseshaht First Nation reserve. The school principal sent an urgent notice to parents and staff on Facebook saying the school will be closed for the rest of the week out of respect for the family.

In a statement Thursday, principal Wayne Peterson said the school is heartbroken to learn of the student’s passing.

“It is no easy thing to lose one of our own. As a sign of respect to his family and to honour the grieving process for all his loved ones, including staff and students, the school will be closed for the remainder of the week leading into Spring Break,” the statement reads.

“We support the family in their request for privacy from the media and the general public, as they grieve the terrible loss of their child.”

The Haahuupayak Elementary School shares in the grief of his passing of this child. We extends our sincere condolences to the parents, family, friends and community members during this tragic time.

Cynthia Dick, chief councillor for the Tseshaht First Nation, declined an interview request.

READ MORE: B.C. First Nations youth twice as likely to die as non-Indigenous peers: Report

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council released a statement Wednesday expressing their sadness over the child’s death, noting he had family ties to both the Ahousaht and Hesquiaht First Nation communities.

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“We are told that this young child had a big, beautiful smile, and that he touched many lives — his loss will deeply impact many,” the statement read.

The council added it supports the family’s request for privacy.

With files from Kylie Stanton

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