Dozens of teens and family members made their way to the Esquimalt Lagoon Wednesday afternoon to remember a West Shore teenager who died last week.
Abby Barker, a 16-year-old Belmont Secondary School student, was remembered for her bubbly attitude and love of animals. Friends came in droves to the lagoon, consoling each other and remembering Barker.
“We just happened to pass each other outside of school and I just knew I had to be her friend,” said Sammy Elder, 16, who met Barker in the first week of high school. “She’s very bubbly, I think that’s a good word to use.”
Austin Bendall, 17, met Barker at a school basketball game under the bleachers.
“I remember when I met her, I felt like I had known her for years already,” Bendall said. “She was just so kind and I had no idea who this girl was and she was just dancing with her friend right beside me.”
Elder said Barker was the kind of person who would befriend anyone within minutes of talking to them and it was evident in the number of students that showed up at the pre memorial. Some sat on driftwood, exchanging stories about Barker, while others helped erect a cross on the beach made of driftwood.
Barker’s older sister, Selena Johnson, said she helped raise her son and gave her the courage to get a job.
“She’s younger than me and I was like wow I look up to you,” Johnson said. “She’s always trying to help. Heaven gained an angel that’s for sure.”
Becky Barker, Abby’s younger sister by 18 months, wore a purple tie-dye shirt that belonged to Abby and held a pink daisy in her hand. She said the two of them were extremely close.
“We’ve always shared a room my entire life,” Barker said. “I was just talking about this a couple months ago, I said ‘mom kept us in a room together way too long, we’ll never be able to be apart,’ and she said, ‘that’s how I feel too, we’re going to have to move out together.’”
Abby Barker moved to Oak Bay recently to live with her father, Anthony. She was set to go to Oak Bay High School in the fall and according to Anthony, was looking forward to it.
“She just turned 16…she was looking forward to start driving,” Anthony said. “The next day I was going to take her to get her bangs trimmed… she just wanted to live life. Abby was just a precious little girl.”
Anthony said earlier Wednesday he received a phone call from the coroner saying they found pure fentanyl in Abby. He is calling for the police to continue investigating the death of his daughter.
“There’s a lot of anger here too, people want justice,” Anthony said.
Kyla Johnson, the eldest of the sisters, said everyone is showing their emotions in different ways whether it be sadness, anger or denial.
“We’re all just here like it’s her birthday party and we’re waiting for her to show up,” she said. “I love her, and I will cherish her forever.”
The youths and family members planned to write messages in bottles for Barker, as a way to say goodbye. While many said they would take the opportunity to send one final “I love you” to her, others had more personal messages that they hope she will receive.
“I will carry her with me for the rest of my life,” Elder said.
The West Shore RCMP and B.C. Coroners Service were called to a Langford residence on Thursday afternoon for a sudden death. While the organizations could not confirm the identity of the deceased or cause of death since the investigation is ongoing, friends and family identified her as Abby Barker and indicated she died of what they said is a suspected overdose.
Last Wednesday, Island Health issued a warning after overdoses in Greater Victoria doubled in the past week due to a stronger supply of drugs.
According to an Island Health medical health officer, Dr. Dee Hoyana, there is an average of four overdoses a week in Greater Victoria.
The B.C. Coroners Service and West Shore RCMP have not provided any more details about the investigation.