As condolences poured in from communities shocked by the deaths of two young girls in Sylvan Lake last weekend, schools in Red Deer and Sylvan Lake are preparing to help their students deal with the loss.
A 12-year-old from Sylvan Lake and a 13-year-old from Red Deer were found dead by EMS in a hotel room at Sylvan Lake’s Best Western Plus Chateau Inn last Sunday morning. A male parent was nearby but police are revealing few other details of how the tragedy may have happened while the investigation continues.
One of the girls attended Sylvan Lake’s Fox Run School and the other girl went to a school in Red Deer, which has not been identified.
Fox Run is part of Chinook’s Edge School Division, where administrators have already been in contact with her family to offer condolences and offer support.
“Our heart goes out to them. I can’t imagine a worse-case scenario than losing a child,” said Chinook’s Edge superintendent Kurt Sacher.
The division has already arranged to ensure mental health and counselling support is there for those who need it when students and staff return from Spring Break on Monday.
“We’re definitely going to have some staff who are heartbroken and friends of the student will be heartbroken,” said Sacher. “There will just be dealing with the natural process of grief, which we know works differently for every individual.
“We’re just trying to do the best we can to provide support and understanding.
“School communities are resilient. They move through things, even terrible things, and I know they will. But we want to certainly be flexible and understanding in those beginning days returning from the break.”
Red Deer Public Schools is also making sure support will be available as their staff and students return, who are also returning from Spring Break.
“Our sincere condolences have been extended to the family at this difficult time, and we are working to support them, our staff and our students,” said Red Deer Public Schools in a statement.
“We have encouraged families to utilize Alberta Health Services supports this week. Additional counselling supports will be provided by the division to students and staff on Monday as they return from Spring Break. Out of respect, we will have no further comment.”
Alberta Health Services said it will have additional help available, including walk-in sessions with counsellors.
Town of Sylvan Lake, Mayor Megan Hanson and council, extended their condolences to all those in the community affected by the loss.
“We are saddened by the news and our thoughts are with the families at this time,” says the town in a statement.
“We appreciate all those involved in assisting our community, including first responders, school supports from our educational leaders and residents who are providing help to those who need it most during this time of grief.”
A woman answering the phone at the Best Western Plus Chateau Inn Sylvan Lake where the girls were found offered condolences saying their thoughts and prayers” were with the girls’ family and friends. The hotel is co-operating with local government officials and asked that any questions be directed to them, she added.
Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston also offered condolences on behalf of council and the community.
“A horrific tragedy occurred in Sylvan Lake this past weekend, leaving our community shocked and grieving for two young lives. On behalf of my council colleagues, and the community, I wish to offer my deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones affected by this heartbreak.
“I also want to offer heartfelt thanks to the first responders of both communities. Thank you for your quick response and bravery. I also want to extend my thoughts to the school communities who will be providing support and resources to many grieving students over the coming weeks and months.”
On Facebook, a number of people expressed their shock and sadness that such young lives were lost.
“This is so terrible … my heart breaks for the families,” posted one person in a sentiment shared by many others.
RCMP have released only a few details about the circumstances surrounding the young girls’ deaths. Police said there is no indication of suicide or homicide, although the investigation is in its early stages.
Autopsies and toxicology tests will be performed. However, it often takes weeks for toxicological results to come back to investigators and it may be some time before an investigation is concluded, said RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Troy Savinkoff.
How much, if any, additional information will be released will depend on that investigation.
“If it ends up remaining as a non-criminal investigation and a sudden death we won’t be releasing the results of the (medical examiner’s) report.”
“From a policing perspective, with non-criminal deaths we just don’t provide a lot of details about that. It’s just not in our purview.”