Tyler Whaley lies in an unmarked grave at Mountain View Cemetery after dying alone of a suspected overdose in his Trail apartment on July 10.
He was 21 years old, and had only been in this city for a year. He grew up in Cranbrook, and everyone who knew and loved him wants him laid to rest in his hometown.
But somehow he was buried in Trail, against his family’s wishes.
Tyler’s sister Robin Tebbe hasn’t been able to bring her brother — the baby of the family — back home to be buried in Cranbrook with his mom, who died when Tyler was 11, and an infant sister who succumbed to SIDS before Tyler was born.
She had just finished working a night shift as a care aide in an Elk Valley town when she called her aunt to give her some news about an acquaintance who had passed the previous evening.
She recalls her aunt, who lives a few doors away from Robin, being very quiet, almost “odd” with the conversation.
“My aunt said, ‘That’s not the the news I had,’ so I asked her, ‘What news do you have?’” Robin said.
Her aunt proceeded to tell her she had seen a Facebook post from a community member that Tyler had died. That person had read of Tyler’s death on Facebook as well after an unknown young girl had posted “Rest in Peace Tyler.”
|Tyler Whaley was 21 years old when he died of a suspected overdose in July. Photo submitted|
This is how Robin found out her brother was dead, through an aunt from a friend from a stranger on Facebook.
She still can’t wrap her head how her kind-hearted brother, who didn’t look a day over 16, could be dead.
“He was very artistic, he loved animals and really loved his family,” Robin said. “All before he hit 17 or 18, when he got involved in drugs. That’s why he was brought to Trail, to get away from all that here in Cranbrook. But the drug problem followed him and he was found dead in his bed. That’s all I was told.”
Because it was a Saturday, July 19, Robin immediately called the Ministry of Children and Family Services because Tyler had been in foster care since the age of six. Though he had aged out about three years previous, it was a place to start to look for some answers or at least an official confirmation of Tyler’s death.
“Being the weekend it went to a federal call (centre) and they verified that he died but they had no details,” Robin tearfully recounted. “I asked them why they didn’t have any details he just died yesterday, and they said, ‘No it happened July 10.’”
Through the community member who had originally posted about Tyler’s death, Robin was able to get a contact number for a worker in Trail, not Tyler’s ministry worker, but an access worker.
“His mom is buried here, his dad is buried here, I would like to bring him home,” Robin told the worker. “And she agreed saying that was the best place for him.”
After leaving messages with the ministry and not hearing back, and speculating Tyler’s autopsy had to be completed and paperwork done, Robin waited for word on when the family could get Tyler’s ashes.
After another week of being stonewalled from the ministry about what was going on with Tyler, Robin says she called the access worker to find out. That day Robin says she was told the paperwork to bury Tyler in Trail had been stopped and his ashes were ready to be picked up.
“So I left it be, it was the long weekend so I thought, ‘OK, we will get this dealt with on the Tuesday after the long weekend,’” Robin said.
Robin says she called the funeral home on the Tuesday and was told to call the City of Trail. Robin says she called the City of Trail and was told they were not to talk to her about this “by the funeral home.”
“I said why does the funeral home have a say?” Robin recalled.
“And she said, ‘Well they interred him this morning.’”
|Note on the back of this photo of Tyler Whaley, one of the last in his possession, is “Cranbrook, after Bridget and I saw a movie.” Dated 2010.|
Robin says she later found out the ministry called her mother’s ex-husband to inform him of Tyler’s death. This ex-husband and her mom were divorced four years before Tyler was conceived, so Robin is still wondering why they didn’t call her grandparents, aunt, uncles or herself.
Tyler was still contacting the family in the month before he died, so their numbers were still in his cell phone.
“I don’t know why they buried him there. I called 10 days before he was interred so there is no reason for this,” she said. “He needs to be home. And we need to bring awareness to this so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
The Trail Times called Alternatives Funeral and Cremation Services for comment. The first call wasn’t returned, and on the second call the Times was told the business was consulting with a lawyer.
The Trail Times also contacted the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Although Tyler had aged out of foster care at 18, he had ongoing care due his mental health and autism diagnoses.
“We offer our deepest condolences to the family and the community of Trail for their loss,” the ministry replied in an email. “The pandemic makes this an especially difficult time for many, and losing a child is a heartache no one should have to endure.
“While we cannot comment on case specifics, we know the transition to adult services can be challenging for youth with special needs and their families.”
The Ministry of Children and Family Development is working to finalize and implement a new children and youth with special needs service framework that will guide the delivery of services to better meet the specific needs of children and their families, the reply reads.
“A component of this work includes strengthening transition planning and providing additional guidance to youth and families throughout their move to adult services.
“We are currently facing dual public health emergencies and are working quickly across government and with all partners to both flatten the curve and stop overdose deaths.”
This week Robin consulted a lawyer to find out how the family can bring Tyler home.
“I was told when somebody passes that their oldest living relatives should be contacted, my grandparents or me. But I still don’t know who to ask or what to do,” she quietly shared.
“I just want to bring him home.”
Until the family can lay Tyler to rest with his mother and sister in Cranbrook, he will lie under an unmarked foot-by-foot square of green grass in Trail’s cemetery.
To find him, look for Cremains Section 60, Row 1. His name, it seems, no longer matters.