The family of a young South Surrey woman who died this month after ingesting an “accidental but deadly concoction of prescription and non-prescription” drugs is sharing her story through social media in the hopes of preventing similar deaths in the future.
“There is an implied stigma that surrounds such things,” Tom Koltai, the father of Danika Koltai, wrote in a Facebook post Saturday.
“There is a an important misconception that overdoses occur only in stereotypes and newspapers. No stereotype here.”
According to the B.C. Coroners’ Service, Danika Koltai died Sept. 1 at a residence she was visiting in Delta. She was 20 years old.
Specific details around the circumstances of her death have not been shared publicly, however, a Facebook post by her older brother suggests the deadly opiate fentanyl – blamed for many overdose deaths in recent months – was the culprit.
“As many of you know, it is becoming increasingly common for individuals that sell drugs to cut their product with other substances that mimic the high for customers and increase profits,” Jonathan Koltai writes.
“When they throw things like fentanyl into the mix, the margin for error is extremely slim, and things get dangerous fast. It is not my intention to lecture anyone here, but I think it is important for all of us to step back and reflect when something tragic like this happens. It is important to consider what reward means in relation to risk. My little sister is gone because someone wanted to make a few extra dollars. I will never see her beautiful smile again, and that crushes me.”
Family members did not wish to comment publicly Monday beyond their Facebook posts.
Danika attended Earl Marriott Secondary in South Surrey and was a youth soccer player. More recently, she worked at The Shops at Morgan Crossing Starbucks, where flowers and photographs now pay tribute to her.
Comments on Facebook describe a happy young woman with a kind heart, unforgettable laughter and lively soul.
One commenter describes her “an amazing person who always looked out for everyone.
“Your smile would light up the room and your loud laugh was contagious.”
Jennifer Brooks, the mother of another young adult whose life ended tragically – Hudson Brooks, who was shot and killed by police in South Surrey in July 2015 – also commented, describing her late son’s friend as “a beautiful girl… with the sweetest heart.”
“Danika your generous spirit, integrity and thoughtfulness shown to others is a legacy of who you are.”
Tom Koltai, in his post, describes his daughter as “just a beautiful woman taken from herself and the rest of us by chosen behaviors with completely unintended consequences.”
He appealed to those who knew Danika to recognize that such tragedy can happen to anyone, and share that awareness in her memory.
“If you have children, you may be unable to compel them to behave,” he writes. “You can, however, share this story of Danika and through her voice lovingly nudge chosen behaviour towards safer ground. If you don’t have children, acknowledge that only you, your friends, your families, your co-workers, can choose your own and their own behaviours. Acknowledge that your own safety is a direct function of your chosen behaviours. Let this be Danika’s voice… let Danika’s voice be heard.”
Her death comes four months after the provincial government declared its first-ever public-health emergency to deal with the sharply rising cases of opioid drug overdoses in B.C.
The measure – ordering hospitals, paramedics, police and firefighters to immediately report them – was to allow for rapid collection of data from health authorities and the B.C. Coroners’ Service, so treatment kits could be deployed to regions where there are new clusters of outbreaks.
At that time, those clusters were mainly in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
In June, Surrey high school students were sent home with letters warning about fentanyl and a second fairly recent addition to the illicit drug scene, W-18.
Fentanyl – a potent synthetic opioid that has been found mixed with heroin, cocaine and even marijuana – has been tied to about 60 per cent of 371 drug-overdose deaths in B.C. that occurred in the first half of this year.
In one evening alone late last month, paramedics responded to nine overdose reports in South Delta in the space of 20 minutes. Delta Police said they believe the drugs used were tainted with fentanyl, and that all nine who overdosed – described as “young adults” – were recreational users who believed they were using cocaine.
Eight were taken to emergency in respiratory distress; one was found in full cardiac arrest.