A St. John’s man who died while incarcerated at Queen’s Prison late last year was suffering from a bacterial infection that destroyed his body and shut down his organs, his mother says.
The harrowing details of 35-year-old Seamus Flynn’s final hours have left troubling questions for Cindy Flynn, who is demanding accountability.
She wants to know who ultimately took the decision not to send her son to the hospital sooner.
“Seamus died a terrible death,” Cindy Flynn said in a recent interview at her home on the west coast of Newfoundland.
Flynn said Dr. Nash Denik, the province’s chief medical examiner, provided details about her son’s medical condition over the phone last month. The autopsy report has not been finalized, he said.
When contacted by CBC News, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner wrote that it “cannot comment on the cause and manner of death at this time,” citing the ongoing investigation.
Seamus Flynn died on the morning of 2 December.
Cindy Flynn said Dennick told her that Seamus had viral influenza that turned into a bacterial infection. He was also suffering from severe pneumonia and had become septic.
The Justice Department described it as “sudden death” that occurred after Seamus Flynn was taken to the hospital.
Cindy Flynn said she is troubled by questions about the last moments of her son’s life.
“So you torture yourself with those questions… Did he want his mother?”
Cindy Flynn had feared this call for years – a fear shared by many whose families had been eclipsed by addiction.
She describes her son as a beautiful child who grew up to be a funny, loving teenager. Addiction, he said, had hit him in his teens. She was separated from him for the last five years of her life.
“You don’t want that phone call because as long as the phone call goes away, there’s still hope,” Flynn said.
That call, he said, came from a family member 10 hours after his death.
She said trying to figure out how her son became so seriously ill before his death has been a challenge from the beginning.
Flynn said he was not informed or contacted by the Justice Department, which oversees the administration of correctional services, or prison officials themselves.
The department declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing the ongoing police investigation.
Justice Department spokesman Eric Humber wrote, “As always, the safety and well-being of all inmates in our facilities is the top priority.”
allegation of assault
Cindy Flynn said she did not ask Dennick about evidence of her son’s broken bones or injuries during an incident about two months before his death.
In an interview with CBC News two weeks before his death, Seamus Flynn said that all but four of his teeth were broken during a beating by several corrections officers on October 11.
Seamus Flynn said he suffered serious injuries, did not receive the medical attention he needed and was still suffering from pain more than a month later.
He and another prisoner filed a complaint with the Citizens’ Representation Office.
Following the release of CBC’s story on Flynn’s allegations, the Justice Department said a review had been completed by the institution’s head and security captain.
“It was verified that the situation was handled appropriately,” that statement said.
However, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary later said it would expand the scope of its investigation into his sudden death.
CBC News has requested through access to information laws any documents and records – including surveillance video – related to the internal review conducted by magistrate officers into the events of October 11. The Justice Department has rejected that request, citing the ongoing investigation. The citizen representative also said it is the subject of an RNC investigation.
An RNC liaison officer has been in contact with Cindy Flynn, he said, but the official has not been provided details of the scope of the investigation.
“I am confused and waiting again,” she said.
Flynn said he hopes the investigation by Dennick’s office and the RNC will look at the totality of his son’s case, including the time leading up to his death and the care he received — or didn’t receive.
“You can’t say they died from natural causes if those natural causes were caused by neglect,” he said. “If there needs to be a public inquiry, let’s have it.”
Madison Osmond, Seamus Flynn’s younger cousin, says the medical examiner’s initial findings are troubling.
“I want to know why he was so sick, how did he get so sick, and why wasn’t he treated when he was so sick? And if he was treated, why wasn’t it enough to make sure That he’s still alive now?” He said.
Osmond said she is awaiting full results from the medical examiner and wants to know whether the incident in October may have contributed to her poor health.
The ordeal has focused intense attention on prison conditions, Osmond said.
The news that the provincial government had decided to restart the tender process for a new facility angered her.
She is urging the provincial government to ensure her cousin’s death is the last to occur at HMP.
“To the minister of justice and the head of prisons, I would like to say that I believe you have failed this province and the society of Newfoundland by bringing it to this point,” she said.
“Prisons are for rehabilitation. You should come out better than you went in. You should not die.”
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