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Langley parents want answers after death of son in UBC dorm

It was hours between the first 9-1-1 call and help arriving
Kyle Sohn, 19, was a Langley student living in residence at UBC when he died last November. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Distraught Langley parents want accountability and changes to rules at UBC after their son died when it took hours to get access to his dorm room while he was suffering from a major medical emergency.

Kyle Sohn grew up in Langley, and was a 19-year-old computer science student, living in residence at UBC.

His parents, Alex Sohn and Michelle Cho, said their son went to R.E. Mountain Secondary and had been involved as a volunteer in a federal political campaign while attending university.

On Nov. 14, 2022, Kyle was alone in his dorm room at UBC when at 7:33 a.m., he called 9-1-1 through is Apple watch.

“We don’t know exactly what it was, but Kyle had a medical problem,” said Kyle’s father Alex.

The call only lasted a few seconds – phone records showed it was under a minute. The E-Comm 9-1-1 operators would try to call him back four times, indicating they likely couldn’t speak to him or hear him.

He called 9-1-1 again at 8:05 a.m. But again, there was no communication, and no ambulance or police were dispatched.

Between 8:30 a.m. and about 9:20 a.m., Kyle’s roommates heard him vomiting loudly and groaning. They knocked but didn’t know what do do.

Half an hour later, they called the UBC residence life manager for their building.

According to Kyle’s parents, the life manager refused to open the door, based on university policies.

Because the door was a sturdy fire door, his roommates couldn’t kick it down and break in to see if he was all right.

The last time his roommates heard Kyle was 9:22 a.m.

Alex said the life manager told the roommates to call the RCMP. When an officer arrived to check on Kyle, he initially had the wrong key card for the room. It took until 10 a.m. to open the door.

The officer found Kyle on the floor, with no pulse. It was two and a half hours after the first 9-1-1 call.

“At 9:22, he was still alive,” Alex said. “When they arrived around 10 o’clock, he had no pulse.”

Kyle was rushed to St. Paul’s Hospital, but there had been no oxygen to his brain for some time. He died in six days later in hospital, and his organs were donated.

Doctors believe Kyle died of a drug overdose, but his parents believe it may have been related to medication he was on, they say.

His grief-stricken parents want accountability and answers from UBC, and they want to ensure that there are no policies that prevent entering a student’s room in an emergency.

Kyle’s mother Michelle Cho said they have been told that the university staff were just following protocol.

They also want to know more about the 9-1-1 calls and the response.

“I’m not saying it’s 9-1-1’s fault,” said Alex. “But they should have sent somebody.”

Asked about the incident, UBC sent a statement by Ainsley Carry, the university’s vice president of students.

“The university wishes to offer our deepest condolences to the student’s family who are suffering through this tragic situation,” Carry said. “We have reached out and met with the family to further discuss this matter.

“As you can appreciate this is a private matter and we cannot speak to specifics. What we can say is that the university has comprehensive procedures and protocols when responding to these situations.”

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), which investigates all police actions that may have resulted in the death or serious injury of a person, also opened a file, but it was closed relatively quickly.

The IIO investigation confirmed the two calls to the E-Comm 9-1-1 system, but there were no follow ups because the calls didn’t reveal “indications of distress.”

Because officers weren’t notified until around 10 a.m., police inaction did not contribute to Kyle’s death, the report says.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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