Saskatoon

Nearly all victims died within minutes of attack, James Smith massacre inquest hears

A faster emergency response would not have saved any of the 11 victims in the 2022 stabbing massacre at James Smith Cree Nation and village of Weldon, an inquest heard Friday.

Faster emergency response would not have saved any lives, pathologists say

The photo shows the backs of a number of people, including two people who are hugging.
People gather during a morning break Friday in the public coroner's inquest in Melfort, Sask., into the mass stabbings that happened on James Smith Cree Nation in 2022. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

A faster emergency response would not have saved any of the 11 victims in the 2022 stabbing massacre at James Smith Cree Nation and village of Weldon, an inquest heard Friday.

Pathologist Dr. Shaun Ladham shared the results of the autopsies of five of the victims Friday. Another pathologist did the same for the other six victims Thursday.

They said nearly all victims likely died within 10 minutes of being attacked on Sept. 4, 2022, and some may have died within seconds. The exception was Damien Sanderson, brother of the killer, Myles Sanderson. He may have survived for up to an hour, but his body was not discovered in brush and tall grass until after the others.

As Ladham reviewed each case, he was asked if a faster medical response would have made a difference.

"There's nothing they could do at the scene," Ladham said in one case.

"He would not have survived. There's nothing they could have done for him," he said in another.

The inquest, which is being held in Melfort, Sask., heard earlier testimony that more than a dozen other people were transported to hospital by ambulance that day and all survived.

The faces of 11 people, with names and ages when they died, are all in one image.
Eleven people were killed in the Sept. 4, 2022, stabbings. Most were from James Smith Cree Nation. One man was from Weldon, Sask. (CBC)

Coroner Blaine Beaven ordered extra breaks on Thursday for the families and jury due to the graphic nature of the testimony. On Friday morning, he added five-minute breaks between the discussions of each autopsy. He encouraged everyone to protect their mental health by going outside for a walk or a glass of water at any point.

"Please take care of yourself," he said.

After two weeks of often emotional testimony, Beaven adjourned the inquest for the weekend at noon on Friday. There were no objections.

The inquest resumes on Monday, with the final witness expected to testify in the middle of the week. The jury will then be asked to come up with recommendations to prevent future deaths.

WATCH | M​an who lost wife, son in ​mass ​stabbing says inquest details are path to healing: 

'My mind is at ease': M​an who lost wife, son in ​mass ​stabbing says inquest details are path to healing

3 months ago
Duration 1:07
Brian (Buggy) Burns says now that he has the exact details of how his wife and son died in the James Smith Cree Nation deadly stabbing rampage, he can go on and heal.

Support is available for people affected by this tragedy. The Hope for Wellness hotline offers immediate help to Indigenous people across Canada. Mental health counselling and crisis support is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

You can talk to a mental health professional via Wellness Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It is free and confidential.

Talking Stick is a Saskatchewan-based free anonymous chat platform that connects people seeking emotional support to a trained Indigenous peer advocate 24/7.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Warick

Reporter

Jason Warick is a reporter with CBC Saskatoon.

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