‘Heartbreaking:’ Mother responds to inquest that detailed moments leading up to son’s death

Jordan Norfield (right) and his mother Sandy Pitzel (left). Norfield died in Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital after being transferred there from police detention cells. – Lakefield Law/Submitted

The mother of a man who died in Prince Albert nearly three years ago is responding to the evidence and recommendations presented at an inquest last week.

Jordan Norfield was 30 years old when he died at the Victoria Hospital on Dec. 5, 2020.

The inquest heard that Norfield was arrested on Dec. 1 for breaching his COVID-19 self-isolation orders.

He was held in police detention cells overnight. Video evidence showed Norfield appearing to seize on and off and hit his head on the concrete walls.

The lawyers who represented Norfield’s mother, Sandy Pitzel, provided a statement with her response to the inquest.

“This process has allowed Sandy and her family some closure, and they are deeply grateful to have some of the answers they needed to continue healing from Jordan’s death,” it reads.

“Hearing the evidence of her beloved Jordan’s 14 hours in Prince Albert police cells was heartbreaking.”

Sgt. Tyson Morash testified that he did not call an ambulance to the cells when Norfield began seizing.

He did, however, call the hospital earlier in the night when Norfield said he had chest pain. A nurse said Norfield had been to the hospital twice that day and was medically cleared.

Norfield ultimately died from a condition called rhabdomyolisis, when damaged muscle tissue releases its proteins and electrolytes into the blood. In severe cases, like Norfield’s, this causes kidney failure.

Norfield had several risk factors for rhabdomyolisis, including seizures.

“Learning this information would have been difficult in any circumstance. However, learning that Jordan’s death might have been prevented if an ambulance been called earlier in the evening made hearing this evidence even more difficult,” reads the statement.

Norfield’s family thanked the witnesses for their transparency throughout the inquest. They also thanked the jury, who provided “practical and helpful” recommendations in hopes of preventing similar deaths in the future.

The six-person jury recommended that staff in the detention cells review policies annually, and that the force conduct frequent and random audits to ensure policies are being followed.

Additionally, the jury suggested that the sergeant have limited ability to play back the live video footage that’s used to monitor prisoners.

Pitzel and her family said the police service could improve operations further. This includes having a paramedic available in the cells 24 hours a day – rather than just overnight – and providing medical training to sergeants.

The family still has questions about the lawfulness of Norfield’s arrest, the statement said.

The inquest heard that Norfield was detained before his detention order was completed with a signature from a medical health officer.

Inquests are not civil or criminal proceedings. They’re intended to determine the facts surrounding someone’s death to improve operations for relevant parties in the future.

Norfield’s inquest was not mandatory, but was requested by Saskatchewan’s chief coroner.

The Prince Albert Daily Herald wrote stories each day of Jordan Norfield’s inquest. For these articles, click the links below:

Day 1 – First day of inquest shows Jordan Norfield ‘disoriented’ in detention cell, says PA officer

Day 2 – ‘He was messed up:’ Police cell guard describes Jordan Norfield’s abnormal behaviour at PA inquest

Day 3 – ‘It was the wrong decision,’ testifies PA police sergeant about not calling an ambulance for prisoner who later died

Day 4 – Inquest hears Prince Albert man died of complications from muscle damage condition