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‘Sam had just proposed to me’: Comox Valley sees 3 overdose deaths in 1 week

Community members organized a vigil on May 15 to honour their passing

In the span of seven days, the Comox Valley experienced three deaths linked to the toxic drug crisis.

After being approached by several community members, Taija McLuckie and Mario Palma from Solid Outreach organized a vigil to honour these individuals on May 15.

More than a dozen friends, family members, and outreach workers gathered in front of the Comox Valley Art Gallery to publicly bid their last goodbyes.

“We need to support the people out here (grieving) and help them share their stories, especially with the passing of such beloved people in our community,” said Palma.

“When a death happens in this community it stays in-house, behind closed doors and no one talks about it,” added McLuckie. “I think we all can feel the effects of what isolation has done to communities, families and friends.”

Among those who passed away was Sam Golbeck.

“I brought 12 roses because they were gonna be the ones I was going to carry down the aisle because Sam had just proposed to me,” said Sam’s fiancée Brooke Whitney. “It was a long haul of seeing him hurt and suffer and I suffered a lot too… At times, we were all each other had and we kept each other alive.

“I’ll never forget him and I’m honestly going to spend the rest of my life missing him. I truly loved him with all my being.”

Whitney’s mother also spoke at the vigil.

“I know that (Sam) loved Brooke with his whole heart and she loved him with her whole heart,” she said. “I’m grateful that my daughter got to experience being loved the way she did… Now, I just want him to rest in peace and I want him to know that I loved him too.”

Friends of Sam also took the time to share a few words about the importance he played in their lives and the community.

“I was friends with Sam and I always enjoyed spending time with him because he had such a tender heart and a peaceful spirit about him,” said friend and outreach worker John Elving. “When I found out he passed, I literally dropped my phone. I couldn’t believe it and it hit me pretty hard.

“My brother Ben… died in 2017 from fentanyl poisoning (and) every time (a death happens,) I reflect on my brother every time.”

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding their passing, McLuckie aimed to ensure that this vigil brought a sense of human dignity to those lost recently to the toxic drug crisis in the region.

“I really want to put at the forefront that everyone’s life deserves to be celebrated and that the way someone dies is not what (determines) their whole lives,” McLuckie added. “Their drug use was one tiny part of these people’s lives. They were human beings whom he loved and were loved back.”

Island Health issued an advisory on May 15 based on an increase in some key indicators related to overdoses in the region.

This statement also highlights that people using opioids and stimulants are currently at increased risk of overdose and are advised to visit an overdose prevention service, get their drugs tested, carry Naloxone, and use with a friend.

For more information on mental health and substance use services, visit islandhealth.ca/our-services/mental-health-substance-use-services.

People can sign up for text alerts about overdose advisories by texting JOIN to 253787.

RELATED: 8 years since B.C. declared health emergency, toxic drug crisis rages on

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Olivier Laurin

About the Author: Olivier Laurin

I’m a bilingual multimedia journalist from Montréal who began my journalistic journey on Vancouver Island with The Comox Valley Record in 2023.
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