Bitter cold that engulfed Central Alberta claimed a life in Stettler, police reported Monday. Stettler RCMP were called to a garage where the body of a man who froze to death was discovered late last week, said Sgt. Duncan Babchuk.
The 58-year-old man, who lived at Heart Haven Lodge, was found on the concrete floor of an unheated, unattached garage of a home in the 4800 block of 51st Avenue, said Sgt. Babchuk. “He may have been trying to warm up, because there was an attempt to start a fire, there were some wood products inside the garage and some were burnt, but there was not a very large fire.
“For some reason he ended up inside that garage. It’s an older building, not heated and he was wearing very light clothing.”
An elderly woman owns the property and her son found the deceased man Friday morning, police said.
“I think he was in there longer,” Sgt. Babchuk said. “It could have been one to two days, I think it was longer than overnight.”
According to Environment Canada, last Wednesday night, the mercury dipped down to -28 C in Stettler, -37 C with the wind chill, and Thursday morning the temperature dropped to -30 C, and -40 C with the wind chill.
Last Thursday night, it was-30 C and -40 C with the wind chill, and Friday morning it went to -33 C and -43 C with the wind chill.
The extreme cold weather also prompted the RCMP to cancel the charity Christmas checkstop last weekend, said Sgt. Babchuk.
The man, whose name hasn’t been released by police, was away from the Heart Haven Lodge for about a week, said Sgt. Babchuk.
“He had been away from there for a while, but they are not held there as prisoners, they don’t keep doors locked, and people come and go from there. We didn’t receive a call that he was missing.”
Betty Tschritter, CAO of the County of Stettler Housing Authority, which manages Heart Haven Lodge, said she couldn’t comment on how long the man was gone, or not gone, and added that staff is “saddened by the loss.”
Tschritter said that although she can’t comment on the specific incident, if any residents miss a meal or a counting, staff follows protocol and contacts family members of the individual.
Sgt. Babchuk said it’s important people are cognizant of the dangerous cold temperatures.
“Everyone needs to be aware of how cold it is,” he said. “Anybody that is out and about, especially at this time of year, needs to be aware of where they are going and what type of weather it is and take warm clothing.
“And if they are elderly persons you are taking care of, you have to ensure where they are going, as well.”