Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Coroner finds 10 Maple Ridge people died during heat dome

Summer 2021 claimed almost 600 lives due to record-breaking heat

There were 10 people in the Maple Ridge area who died during the week of record-breaking heat last summer.

The B.C. Coroner’s Service released a report on Monday morning, saying a total of 595 people died from heat-related illness during the summer.

The largest number of deaths took place between June 25 and July 1, when a heat-dome weather event resulted in numerous temperature records being set throughout the province. At least 526 deaths occurred during this event, and several of the deaths recorded in the days and weeks following were due to injuries sustained during the heat dome period, said the Coroner’s Service.

It was during this time period that 10 people died in the Maple Ridge area.

The temperature reached a highest-ever mark of 41.1 C at the Pitt Meadows Airport on June 28. That scorching temperature had followed temperatures of 40C and 37.8C on the days prior, all of which exceeded the old record of 37.6 C, set in 2009.

Under the heat dome, there was little reprieve during the night, as temperatures remained high during the evening.

READ ALSO: Highest-ever temperature 41.4 C recorded in Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge

READ ALSO: Heat wave marked by unusually high night time temperatures

Nearly three-quarters of the deaths recorded between June 25 and July 1 occurred in either the Fraser (273) or Vancouver Coastal (120) health authority regions. The provincewide death rate during this period was 10.1 per 100,000 residents.

Individuals aged 70 or older accounted for 69 per cent of the deaths. Almost all of the deaths were in a residential setting. No heat-related deaths among children were reported.

“The BC Coroners Service is committed to gathering as much information as possible about each of these deaths to inform future, evidence-based prevention efforts” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “I extend my sincere condolences to all of those who lost a loved one as a result of last summer’s unprecedented heat dome. By identifying patterns and factors in the tragic deaths that occurred unexpectedly last summer, our province will be in a better position to prevent future similar tragedies.”

Ernie Daykin is the president of the Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Katzie, Seniors Network and also manages a seniors apartment building. He said the deaths are tragic for the seniors and their families.

He said its important to visit seniors who are alone during such a brutal heat wave.

“Checking on people is the key thing,” he said.

At his building, tea time gave way to lemonade time during the heat wave, and there were cases of bottled water in the lobby so people could help themselves, and make sure they stayed hydrated. There may also be other recommendations or new programs to make sure people can get cool in extreme heat, he noted.

“But the key thing is neighbours watching out for neighbours,” and that’s the message that needs to be promoted as climate change brings predictions of more extreme weather in the future, said Daykin.

The BC Coroners Service considers a death heat-related when the localized environment or the body temperature of a decedent is consistent with hyperthermia. A death is also considered heat-related if there is no direct temperature at the time of death, but there is evidence to support that heat had a significant causal effect on the death.

The three townships experiencing the highest number of deaths were Vancouver (99), Surrey (67) and Burnaby (63).

The BC Coroners Service expects to have completed investigations of each of the 595 heat-related deaths by early 2022. At that time, the service will convene a death review panel consisting of subject matter experts who will create recommendations intended to prevent similar deaths. The findings of the panel are expected to be publicly released in late spring 2022.

“While we expect the findings of the death review will significantly contribute to efforts to increase public safety, we must take steps to prepare for future extreme weather events now,” Lapointe said. “The effects of climate change are both real and unpredictable.”

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