Wally Henschel and his 14-year-old son Justin were still trying to get back on their feet after a devastating fire gutted their Dogwood Street apartment building in April 2020.
The blaze forced them and 85 other tenants to find new housing and it wasn’t easy as they bounced around from place to place, eventually ending up in a tent trailer.
But through it all, Wally Henschel says his son, who was developmentally delayed was always looking to help others and even helped feed the homeless with a local organization called Grassroots Kind Hearts.
“That was my son, he did nothing to nobody, except offer them love,” said Henschel.
But tragedy struck less than a month ago on May 29.
The two were supposed to go fishing that day but they had trouble getting a fishing licence. Justin asked to visit with some friends at Nunns Creek Park so his father drove him there and sat in their van as his son sat in the bleachers with four others.
They smoked some marijuana and drank some vodka, “normal teenage stuff but I always watched over him, never let him out of my sight,” said Henschel.
However on that fateful day, due to aching teeth that he couldn’t get fixed and had kept him up for nights, he says he fell asleep in his van.
“When I woke up and I talked with Justin and then he started vomiting and he started crawling on the ground like he was a snake,” he said. “I asked his friend was what was going on and she said someone spiked an energy drink and handed it to my son with molly.”
Two of the other kids had left.
Wally checked his phone and learned that ecstasy should wear off in 45 minutes. He got Justin in the van where he fell asleep.
He then woke up with a start.
“He said to me hey Dad and I said hey son, you’re really going to feel that in the morning. He said yeah I know, but I just want to sleep right now,” said Henschel, tears streaming down his face.
Minutes later, Justin’s lips turned blue, Wally called 911 and tried to resuscitate his son, but it was too late.
“He passed away in my arms,” said Henschel.
“My message is I don’t want to see it happen to any other kids and parents you really need to realize I watched over my son like a hawk most of the time,” he said. “Don’t open up a drink or take a drink unless you open it yourself.”
The case is being investigated by the Campbell River RCMP Major Crimes Unit and toxicology results are still forthcoming.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help return Justin’s remains to Manitoba where he was born.