Karmyn Skura was filled with emotion as she talked about the loss of her former partner and father of her four-year-old daughter, Ryan Quiroga.
In an interview with Global News, she read a letter he sent to his daughter just weeks before his death. “He wrote, ‘I’ll love you to the end of the universe and back,'” Skura said.
The 28-year-old died early Sunday in his cell at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre (LCC).
His brother Jeremy said he was notified by staff at Chinook Regional Hopsital that his brother had was gone.
“One of his cellmates found him in his cell, unconscious and not breathing and when they checked he had no pulse and they transported him to the hospital,” Jeremy said. “They were only able to temporarily resuscitate him.”
Alberta Justice said in an email to Global News that an inmate was found unresponsive in his cell on April 29.
“Correctional centre staff and Alberta Health Services responded immediately, and the inmate was provided with naloxone and administered CPR.”
Alberta Justice said the inmate was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead and that no other inmates were given naloxone.
“As part of protocol, the unit at the correctional centre was searched and the RCMP and the coroner were notified,” Alberta Justice said. “The cause of death of the individual is unknown at this time and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is investigating.”
According to his family, the father of two had been in custody since October and was expected to be released next month.
Jeremy said he knew his brother struggled with addiction, but not having straight answers about what happened makes the situation harder.
“I knew that was something he was trying hard to address and treat and through my conversations with him, he seemed like he was doing a lot better,” Jeremy said.
“For me, to have this situation that’s really ambiguous — no explanation and even the medical staff were really careful to not directly assert anything.”
Ryan’s death is the second in just two weeks at LCC.
Jessica Joy Good Rider, 37, was found unresponsive in her cell on April 17. Her family said it was also a suspected overdose.
For both families, answers have been scarce.
“I thought it was going to be a really safe environment and it wasn’t until two or three months ago, Ryans like, ‘You know, I am only clean because I want to be, at any point I could get drugs in here,'” Jeremy said.
He said his brother told him “there’s a whole market in here.”
Ryan’s family said treatment wasn’t an option for Ryan when he went to jail, so they thought it would be a step toward getting clean. Jeremy had been working to get his brother assistance and counselling when he was released.
‘They have failed us’
Skura said family was everything to Ryan — that he was making major strides in his recovery and was determined to improve for his children. Now, she feels the justice system has let her and his children down.
“They have failed us, they failed my kids and my kids will never get to see their dad again and that’s on them, they were supposed to keep him safe,” she said.
Ryan’s death has renewed calls for more overdose training for all staff at the correctional centre and a body scanner, which could be used to find concealed drugs.
“This doesn’t have to happen again for another family.”
The family is now preparing for Ryan’s funeral and hope some answers will come to light to help their grieving process.
“I just want to know how long was he left alone for before someone found him and why it took so long for someone to find him or help him,” Skura said.
They are adamant about making Ryan’s death mean something, hoping their tragedy can spark change.
“There are two beautiful children who now have to live their lives without their father,” Mary Weiss, the mother of Ryan’s son, said. “Tell me why these kids have to be told that their dad won’t get the second chance that the experience of a correctional centre stay was supposed to afford him?
“His children deserve an answer, his children deserve accountability. We need to know what is going to be done to minimize the possibility of this type of outcome reoccurring. We, as a community, must do more and we must do better.”
The office of Alberta Justice and Solicitor General said no further information is available due to privacy considerations. As per standard protocol, a Board of Inquiry is currently underway to determine what, if anything, could be done to prevent a similar incident in the future.