Couple who died in North Okanagan fire felt they had 'no way out' of financial troubles - InfoNews

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Couple who died in North Okanagan fire felt they had 'no way out' of financial troubles

June 17, 2019 - 6:30 PM

VERNON - A couple who died in a house fire in May 2018 were facing the foreclosure of their home and intentionally started the blaze as part of a plan to end their lives.

According to the B.C. Coroners Service, the couple aged 41 and 36, intentionally set their house on fire and also suffered gunshot wounds to the head, in what was a prepared plan to take their own lives.

The fire took place at the 300 block of Northernview Rd, in the Westside Road area outside of Vernon, May 21, 2018.

The couple, whose names have been redacted from the coroner's report, were under emotional and financial stress and their house was due to be foreclosed. The report states they had a meeting with a major creditor in the afternoon of May 21, the day of the fire.

The report says neighbours heard gunshots and explosion sounds and witnessed the windows being blown out of the home at around 4 a.m. May 21. By the time fire crews arrived the house was completely engulfed by flames and the structure was collapsing.

The Coroners report states the couple died of smoke inhalation but says it is "probable that a self-inflicted gunshot wound contributed" to both of their deaths. It is probable the gunshot wounds rendered them unconscious but alive and then they succumbed to smoke inhalation, the report says. Due to the extent of the fire damage to the bodies, it impossible to definitively confirm a gunshot wound, reads the report.

The bodies of the couple were found in the master bedroom of the house with firearms nearby. The damage to the house was so extensive the actual cause of the fire could not be determined.

According to the report, the female partner had confided in a friend several weeks before and said because of the financial stress and the looming foreclosure there was "no way out of the situation" and that her spouse had suggested they kill themselves and that he would shoot her and then take his own life. The friend did not take the information seriously as it was very out of character.

The report states the couple had made steps in preparation of the plan and attempted unsuccessfully to rehome their dog. On the night of the fire, the dog was found on a neighbours porch and dog food found in the back of the neighbour's truck. This was unusual as the dog always slept in the home overnight.

According to the coroner's report, it is impossible to know how much the female participated in the actions that led to her death. As she had told her friend her spouse was going to shoot her and then take his own life, the coroner registered the death as "undetermined" as there was equal evidence of suicide and homicide.

Blood alcohol tests showed "significant intoxication" in both parties.

Suicide is not the only way out. If you feel this way, the B.C. Crisis Centre might be able to help. Call 1-800-SUICIDE or visit the website for other resources. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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