David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeals trial in Calgary, Alta., on March 9, 2017. A naturopath has testified she recommended an Alberta couple take their toddler to a hospital emergency room before he died of bacterial meningitis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during their appeals trial in Calgary, Alta., on March 9, 2017. A naturopath has testified she recommended an Alberta couple take their toddler to a hospital emergency room before he died of bacterial meningitis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol

‘My son’s not breathing:’ 911 call played at Alberta meningitis death trial

19-month-old Ezekiel’s parents are on trial for failing to provide the necessaries of life

The father of a toddler who died of bacterial meningitis called 911 because his son wasn’t breathing but initially declined an offer of an ambulance, a trial heard Tuesday.

David and Collet Stephan are accused of failing to provide the necessaries of life to 19-month-old Ezekiel in 2012.

The couple initially treated the child with herbal and natural remedies instead of taking him to a doctor.

This is the second trial for the Stephans. A jury found them guilty in 2016, but the Supreme Court overturned the convictions last year and ordered a new trial.

Two frantic 911 calls from David Stephan were played in court as part of the Crown’s case.

“My son’s not breathing,” Stephan said on the first call, as he struggled to give the operator an address to their home near Glenwood, Alta., that her computer would recognize.

The operator, Carroll Moore, asked Stephan if he was performing CPR. He replied that his wife was.

“He’s breathing a little bit better right now,” Stephan said. “He’s doing it on his own.”

Stephan added that his son had had croup for a week but overcame it.

The father said he would call 911 again if there was a problem.

“If you need us you call us back, OK?” said the operator.

Moore testified that there was an ambulance available in Glenwood but, since the Stephans declined one, a request never went to a dispatcher.

David Stephan, who is acting as his own lawyer, asked Moore if it isn’t protocol that an ambulance be automatically dispatched when a child has stopped breathing to make sure everything is all right.

“Is that fair to say that is the case?” asked Stephan.

“That would be the case if the caller didn’t decline the ambulance,” Moore replied.

“In a situation like this you didn’t see it necessary to provide guidance to myself on the phone?” said Stephan.

“We didn’t get to that stage. You struggled so much with the address (that) by the time we found the location for the house you said the baby was breathing,” Moore answered.

Court heard Stephan made a second 911 call about a half hour later as he was driving, with his son and wife in the back of the vehicle. He wanted to know if an ambulance could meet them on the road.

“He stopped breathing. He’s pretty lethargic,” Stephan said on the call.

The dispatcher asked to be put on speaker and instructed Collet Stephan on performing CPR.

“When I breathe into his mouth, there’s a lot of liquid and it gargles,” the mother said.

When the family met up with an ambulance, paramedic Ken Cherniawsky took over. He testified the child was in bad shape and in cardiac arrest.

“He was not breathing. He did not have a pulse. His skin was pale,” said Cherniawsky.

Cherniawsky also testified the ambulance wasn’t equipped with the right size of bag valve mask so an endotracheal tube was used. He said air was moving into the child, making his chest rise and fall.

Court heard Ezekiel later died in hospital.

A naturopath from Lethbridge, Alta., also testified Tuesday.

Tracey Tannis told court that Collet Stephan had called her clinic and told an assistant she was concerned her son had viral meningitis. Viral meningitis can be less severe than bacterial meningitis, but it is still considered a serious illness.

Tannis said she told the assistant to advise the mother to take the child to a hospital.

“I told her to get him to emergency right away because viral meningitis is deadly,” Tannis said

A few days later, the clinic sold an echinacea tincture to the mother. Tannis said she doesn’t remember actually talking to Collet Stephan when she came into the clinic, but she does remember advising the child go to an emergency room.

Defence lawyer Shawn Buckley suggested the naturopath only recommended the child see a doctor and that Tannis “reconstructed” her story after the boy died.

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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

Just Posted

Construction on the main foyer at the soon-to-be opened Clayton Community Centre. (Photo courtesy of HCMA Architecture + Design)
Clayton Community Centre opening delayed again

City says Provincial Health Order reason for latest delay

Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man convicted of assault, unlawfully confining woman pregnant with his child loses court appeal

Victim tells court he drove her to Guildford parking lot after he’d ‘grabbed’ her neck and she fainted

Peter and Stephanie Chung. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey philanthropists presenting $285K in scholarships on Saturday

Drs. Peter and Stephanie Chung over the past nine years have awarded more than 500 students, in memory of their son Joseph

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Vancouver flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Most Read