Wife of man who died in remand hopes inquest gives family 'the answers we need'

WINNIPEG — The wife of a man who died after suffering an epileptic seizure at the Winnipeg Remand Centre says she hopes the inquest into his death will give his children the answers they deserve.

Rochelle Pranteau has been asking for the inquest since last May when her common-law husband, Errol Greene, 26, suffered two seizures and died after she says he was denied his anti-seizure medication by staff at the remand centre. He was in custody awaiting bail on a charge of breaching conditions by consuming alcohol.

"My kids and I need answers for why Errol died," Pranteau, 27, said in a statement Wednesday. "We get barely any information from the remand centre and I'm afraid that this is going to happen again to another family.

"Having this inquest will get us the answers and justice we need."

Pranteau, who may be called a witness at the inquest, was granted official standing at a hearing held Wednesday. Having standing allows her lawyer to call witnesses, ask questions and make final submissions to the inquest judge.

A date for the inquest has not been set. Greene was one of five people who died at the remand centre last year. There were only two deaths between 2010 and 2015 at the institution, which houses roughly 300 people.  

Pranteau was on the phone with Greene from the centre when he began slipping into a seizure May 1.

She's previously told The Canadian Press she heard her husband fall to the ground and listened for the next 20 minutes while the phone dangled and guards and other inmates responded.

"I could hear (the guards) throw him on his stomach and put cuffs on him… you could tell he was struggling for his breath, he was on his stomach and it sounded like a guard was on him," said Pranteau. "They were trying to tell Errol to calm down, but how could he calm down? He's having his episode, let him have it."

Pranteau declined to speak to reporters following Wednesday's hearing.

Her lawyer, Corey Shefman, said Pranteau hopes having standing at the inquest will help her find out why her husband died.

"Her husband died in prison in a manner that he should not have and the investigations that have taken place are not available to her," he said.

"Rochelle wants answers for herself, for her children, and wants to know that the system is responding."

Pranteau, who has three children with Greene and was pregnant with a fourth when he died, is also suing the provincial government, alleging the government failed to provide Greene with the necessities of life.

Shefman said the two proceedings are separate but issues that come up during the inquiry may inform the lawsuit.

"No blame is assigned at the inquest. It's a neutral, non-adversarial process," he said.

"Rochelle believes that, in addition to this process where recommendations are made to prevent future deaths, that people need to be held accountable. That's what the civil claim is about."

The Winnipeg Police Service, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, Manitoba Corrections and The John Howard Society of Manitoba were also granted standing at the inquest.

John Hutton, executive director of the John Howard Society, said a broader inquest into the five deaths is needed.

"If we're just looking into a single death, as this inquest is doing, it might make it more difficult to look at broader issues if they exist. A public hearing could look at each death but also see if there are any commonalities and address them."

Shane Gibson, The Canadian Press

Latest Blogs