By Loreth Beswetherick
It was likely the cold that killed Seppo Makinen in his camper.
An autopsy revealed no definitive cause of death and subsequent toxicology results have come up clean.
Coroner Jan MacFayden said Seppo likely fell, knocked his head, lost consciousness and hypothermia set in. If his camper had been heated or someone had roused him, he probably would have been fine.
"He was a very healthy man," she said.
"Toxicology has revealed nothing — no alcohol, no evidence of anything and we checked for carbon monoxide too, just in case, and there was nothing."
No one will ever know for sure what happened in those final hours before police found Seppo dead in a camper van in parking lot 4 on the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 4, two days before his 71st birthday.
MacFayden said Seppo was last seen by friends leaving a bar in the early hours of Sunday morning on Nov. 28. That was probably the day he died.
She said because no clear cause of death was revealed by the autopsy or toxicology all she could do was try and put the pieces of the puzzle together and come up with a possible scenario.
Here is what she thinks may have happened, and what his family and friends have been told:
Seppo had told friends he had not been feeling well and described flu-like symptoms a couple of days prior to Nov. 28. He went to a bar on Saturday, Nov. 27 with a friend. He declined the offer of a cab to get back to his camper in Lot 4. The autopsy revealed he probably had nothing to drink that night, perhaps because he was feeling under the weather. His liver showed he was not a heavy drinker. MacFayden said Seppo was probably someone who generally nursed one beer all night long.
The assumption is Seppo looked better than he felt that night. His friend said it looked as if he had a lot of fun. He left the bar around 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning and the assumption is he walked to his camper. The temperature was hovering just below zero at the time. His camper was outfitted with propane but the heat hadn’t been turned on. He locked the door from the inside.
It appears he changed into his bed clothes and went to bed. He may have had a nose bleed in the night because there were bloody tissues next to his bed and spots on the pillow.
MacFayden said what happened next, again, is only speculation. It looks like had to get up for some reason and threw his bed covers back. He put his feet on a makeshift platform next to his bed balanced on an ice chest. He either lost his balance and wasn’t able to recover because he wasn’t feeling well or he got dizzy and fell. He knocked his head on the floor of the camper.
MacFayden said he had a deep but non life-threatening bruise on his head and more blood from his nose, which may have also been bumped when he fell. He was knocked unconscious. Because he was in a cold trailer with only a T-shirt and jogging pants on, hypothermia likely set in.
"We checked all the propane and hookups and all the appliances and he had everything turned off," said MacFayden. "So we know the trailer was very cold and we know that by the time he was found he was frozen," she said. "It looks like he had an accident and, as a result, died due to the cold."
MacFayden said she feels strongly there was no foul play. "I am hoping this will set people’s minds at ease. I know there was a lot of speculation and rumours. Because of what was being said we wanted to make sure there was no foul play. Of course what we think happened is only speculation but we have told the family and the key players in all of this that this is what we suspect happened."
Seppo was laid to rest in three places. One third of his ashes were buried at the Whistler Cemetery. One third went on Whistler Mountain and the other third back to his homeland, Finland. More than 800 attended a memorial service in his honour held at the conference centre Dec. 12. Seppo had lived in the community for 35 years.