WARNING: Video in this story contains images of sensitive nature which may not be suitable for all viewers. Discretion is advised.
Samwel Uko posted a video to social media appearing to ask for help just hours before his body was discovered in Wascana Lake in Regina.
While many questions remain unanswered, multiple witnesses said they saw Uko, 20, entering the lake on May 21 at about 7:30 p.m.
A water rescue team pulled him out shortly after. He was declared dead less than two hours later at 9:18 p.m.
“They lost their son at a very young age, the mother and father, they just keep crying. And even for all of us, it’s been a tough time,” said Justin Paul, Uko’s uncle, speaking on behalf of the family from his home in Calgary.
Uko’s Snapchat video shows him inside what appears to be the emergency room at the Regina General Hospital.
Paul said Uko was in Regina visiting family and was taken to the hospital by his cousin. He said the cousin wasn’t allowed into the ER because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The series of events that took place between the time he left the hospital and entered Wascana Lake is unclear. Paul did say Uko returned to his family’s home in Regina, before heading to the lake.
Global News reached out to the Saskatchewan Health Authority for more information.
“We are investigating the video fully to determine where and when it may have been taken and the circumstances surrounding it, and will work with other agencies as needed to ensure this is fully reviewed,” SHA replied in a statement.
“Until such time as we are able to finish our investigation we are not able to determine what occurred.
“We express our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of the young man who filmed the video that media has shared with us.”
Uko, an Abbotsford, B.C. resident, was required to fill out extra paperwork due to not having a Saskatchewan health card, Paul said.
Friends and family can’t help but wonder if the system fell short in providing Uko with the help he needed.
“Sometimes when people are going through those kinds of things, sometimes you don’t need to go through the procedure (of filling out paperwork),” Paul said.
“They should have just asked for his phone number, made a call and talked to someone. Find out what kind of help he needed. He was strong enough to walk into the hospital…he looked at the form and just saw it as another thing to do and he was not ready for it.”
While family members in Regina said Uko showed signs of mental distress saying he “heard voices in his head,” Paul said he nor Uko’s father, mother or sister, were aware of any issues.
“As a family we are totally shocked. Nobody in the family knew that his (mental health) was something he was fighting with,” Paul said.
“It just never crossed our minds. How can we bring it up? When he is a happy kid, enjoying his life.”
Paul said Uko will be remembered for his outgoing personality and infectious smile.
“Samwel meant everything to his family. He was always throwing a joke around. If the mood in the house was not good, he always tried to make everyone in the house happy,” Paul said.
“If his mom was arguing about something he would go to her and tell her, ‘mom, it’s okay.’ If his dad would come back from work and complaining about what happened during the day, he would go sit beside him and tell him, ‘it’s all right.’
“Having him in the house was a blessing to the family.”
Uko played football growing up, and was well known to B.C.’s football community.
Andy Hanlen was a teammate of Uko’s when the two played for the Langley Rams and knew Uko for about seven years.
“A relationship between teammates is much more than a friendship. As a lot of people know, football is a brotherhood,” Hanlen said.
“I was shocked and heartbroken. He was such a nice guy and I never saw anything like that coming.”
Uko also spent time playing with the USask Huskies in Saskatoon.
The day after Uko passed away, the family held a vigil for him in Abbotsford. Paul said more than 200 people showed up to pay their respect.
“It showed us how much he was loved by the people who he shared his time with. It showed that he was a good person and showed the story of his life,” Paul said. “It meant a lot to us.”
Hanlen said he will always keep a special place in his heart for Uko, and will use his death as a reminder to encourage conversation surrounding mental health.
Paul said Uko’s body is still in Regina, but is being flown back to B.C. on Friday. The family has set up a GoFundMe Page to help raise money for funeral costs.