Courtenay high school rocked by death of student
Tragedy struck G.P. Vanier’s Explore Program this week, with the death of a student.
Sara Manitoski, a Grade 11 student in the integrated studies outdoor education program, died in her sleep Tuesday night, during a scheduled midweek overnight excursion to Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre on Hornby Island.
School District 71 director of health and safety, Paul Berry, who leads the critical incident team, was called Wednesday morning.
“I received a call just after 8 a.m. notifying me that a student had been found unresponsive in the morning, while participating with the Explore class, on Hornby, at Tribune Bay,” he said. “Immediately, the staff at Tribune Bay, and the (Vanier) teachers, as well as students, began life-saving measures - CPR -and contacted 9-1-1. Despite all the efforts of the staff and the emergency services of Hornby, they were not able to resuscitate.”
Berry said Manitoski was not suffering any known health issues at the time.
“This was a beautiful, healthy, vibrant young woman who had a great day, went to bed happy, and didn’t wake up.”
Berry said there were approximately three dozen students on the trip.
Three teachers and six staff from the Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre were on hand at the time of the incident.
Upon receiving the call, Berry and a team of support workers comprising of counsellors and the director of student services headed to Tribune Bay, and met with staff and students to begin the support process.
“At the same time, we were communicating with the families of all the students that had been on the trip. It was a very complex communication, because we had not only students who were residents of the Valley, but a number of international students on the trip as well. So we were looking at communications worldwide to let families know that their children were safe.”
The class was brought back to the school en masse and all involved were debriefed Wednesday afternoon.
Counselling support was, and continues to be, offered to students, staff and friends affected by the incident.
“We also shared information with the families regarding how critical incident stress affects each of us, what to look for in the hours, days and weeks ahead, and how to access the services and what services we would be providing in the short-term and the long-term,” said Berry.
Anyone with concerns, or looking for support regarding this incident can contact Berry at Paul.Berry@sd71.bc.ca, or Esther Shatz, director of student services, at firstname.lastname@example.org
“We will be posting some information on the SD 71 website about critical incident stress and what the parents can do to help the students through this,” he said.
Berry added the conduct of the teachers on the scene was exemplary.
“The teachers of the Explore Program exhibited all of the qualities that you would expect to see from an outdoor leader at a time of crisis. The calm, the focus … really, only in education do you have this reality that we are faced with the most unspeakable tragedy, and the teachers have to put aside their own grief and immediately go back to work. Their first priority is all of the students, and they exemplified amazing, amazing leadership at a very difficult time.”
The case has been turned over to the RCMP and the BC Coroners’ Service.
No details on funeral arrangements were available at press time.