The family of a 20-year-old man who was found dead in a Fernie alleyway two years ago is still looking for answers.
Rhys Coppens was found unconscious in the alleyway next to The Northern in Fernie at 2:25 a.m. March 21, 2010.
He was visiting Fernie on a snowboarding trip with his older brother, Jacques, and his best friend.
“We are not looking for vengeance,” said Rhys’s sister Elise Coppens. “We just need to know what happened to him.”
The RCMP said Rhys was taken by ambulance to the Elk Valley Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The RCMP carried out extensive interviews with people that had been in the bar that night, but were never able to find out what had happened to Rhys in the final minutes of his life. Foul play was never suspected. In the end the file was closed.
“At this point we don’t suspect foul play therefore this has become solely a Coroner’s investigation at this point,” said Sgt. Dave Dubnyk of the Elk Valley RCMP. “In saying that, we would always encourage people to come forward if they have information they think we may not already have.”
Dubnyk said that, although there was some alcohol in Rhys’s blood, they do not believe this played a part in his death.
The coroner told the family Rhys died of positional asphyxia, basically suffocation, as the result of the way he ended up lying on the ground.
The medical examiner confirmed his injuries weren’t consistent with falling off a roof or being involved in a fight, Elise told The Free Press. No illegal or legal drugs were found in his blood either.
“We just want to know how he ended up lying where he was,” said Elise. “We are so grateful to the RCMP for all their efforts and working so tirelessly on the case. We just need closure. We want to know what happened to Rhys.”
Rhys was known for his athletic ability. He had played one season with the University of Alberta Golden Bears football team and had recently signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Calgary Dinos.
He also excelled at hockey and soccer, having travelled to England twice to play with the Vimy Ridge soccer academy.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Elk Valley RCMP at 250-425-6233 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477.