Esquimalt teen Heather McLean died of a suspected drug overdose during the Easter weekend. Photo contributed.

Esquimalt teen Heather McLean died of a suspected drug overdose during the Easter weekend. Photo contributed.

Esquimalt teen’s overdose death leaves family devastated

“I had a feeling this was going to happen,” says father

It’s a birthday she was tingling with excitement about celebrating — the big 18, a number that meant she was going to be a grown up.

The big day for Heather McLean will be celebrated by friends and family at the end of the month, but the Esquimalt teen known for her beaming smile won’t be there to join them.

During the Easter long weekend, Heather died of a suspected drug overdose while using cocaine. As her grief-stricken father and stepmother wait on toxicology tests, they can’t help but fear fentanyl was involved.

“It’s unbelievable how hard it is. She had everything going for her. She had the whole package and now she’s gone,” said her father Kevin, who repeatedly told his daughter not to use street drugs. “I had a feeling this was going to happen. The odds were stacked against her.”

The death comes at the same time the B.C. Coroners Service released the latest numbers on fatal drug overdoses in the province. March had the third highest number with 120 deaths — an average of almost four per day for the month. Last March there were 79.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe noted fentanyl appears to account for the significant spike in deaths. More than half the deaths occurred in private homes and males accounted for 82.7 per cent.

According to Heather’s stepmother Tamsin Stratford, Heather had been couch surfing and was trying to be independent. Few details have been released about her death, but Stratford said the teen had been staying at a hotel with some friends the night her life came to a sudden end.

Stratford remembers Heather as a smart girl who was on the honour roll, liked making people happy and enjoyed dance. Around the age of 14, however, she got involved with the wrong crowd and started dabbling in drugs and alcohol.

Noticing an alarming change in Heather’s behaviour, her parents talked to her about the dangers of using street drugs, but Heather thought nothing bad would ever happen to her.

“She looked at us and said that’ll never happen to me because I pay $20 extra when I buy stuff so fentanyl is not in it and she believed that,” said Stratford. “It’s Russian roulette and you might die, you might not, but kids aren’t going to hear it. We said this to her over and over again.”

Worried about their daughter’s safety, Stratford and Kevin asked Heather to call them every day so they knew she was okay. Last Wednesday she came over for a visit and told them how much she loved them, reminiscing about old times. Little did they know that was the last time they would ever see her again.

Esquimalt High, where McLean attended Grade 12, issued a notice to parents this week about Heather’s sudden death, which was shared with students during their first period. The letter noted school counsellors are on hand offering support for any students in need.

As she wades through a fog of unbearable grief, Stratford is encouraging all parents to talk to their children about the dangers of drugs and hold them a little closer at night.

“You don’t know if they’ll be gone tomorrow without any warning. There’s no ‘I made a mistake and I’ll be grounded.’ They’re dead and that’s just terrifying,” said Stratford through buckets of tears. “She has a mom and two sisters that are absolutely devastated. I know her friends are hurting bad and they don’t know what to do.”

To mark Heather’s 18 birthday on April 27, family and friends will be gathering at Saxe Point Park between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to release balloons. Anybody who wants to come is welcome to attend.

editor@vicnews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A weekend of sunny skies may have Victoria breaking temperature records, according to an Environment Canada meteorologist. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Temperature records eyed for Victoria with sunny weekend forcast

Victoria hit the highest April 14 temperature since 1926 on Wednesday

Fire crews respond to the 3500-block of Blanshard Street in Saanich on April 16. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
UPDATED: Saanich fire crews close road over smoking underground electrical equipment

Police diverting traffic as Vernon Avenue closed to all through traffic

A man accused of sexual assault has resigned as a coach at Castaway Wanderers Rugby Club and has had his employment suspended at The Local. (Google Streetview/Screenshot)
Rugby coach resigns, is suspended from Victoria restaurant following sexual assault allegations

Social media page creates a safe space for survivors to share their stories

A GoFundMe has been launched in memory of an eight-year-old boy who drowned at a Hotel Zed pool in Victoria on March 24. (Jane Andema/GoFundMe)
GoFundMe started in memory of 8-year-old boy who died at Hotel Zed pool

Child drowned after wandering off to the pool alone

Smoke is visible from the Trans-Canada Highway, April 16 around 12:15 p.m. (Black Press Media photo)
UPDATED: Saanich fire crews truck in water as hog fuel fire smoulders

No injuries reported following fire at greenhouse near Burnside West and Prospect Lake roads

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: Lookout Lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Photo by Metro Creative Connection
New campgrounds coming to B.C. parks as part of $83M provincial boost

This season alone, 185 campsites are being added to provincial parks, says Minister of Environment and Climate Change

The Nanaimo Clippers’ game against the Alberni Valley Bulldogs slated for Thursday, April 15, has been postponed due to a “potential positive COVID-19 test result,” says the BCHL. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Clippers COVID-19 test negative, team can practise and play

Junior A hockey team had suspended activities the day before out of ‘abundance of caution’

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)

Most Read