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EXCLUSIVE: Death of 23-year-old woman found in Fraser River classified as ‘undetermined’: coroner

‘I’m so heartbroken for Shae. I’m disgusted with our system’ – Shaelene Bell’s mother
Candles with messages from Shaelene Bell’s two boys were lit during her celebration of life at Sandpiper Resort on Saturday, June 26, 2021. Her death has been classified as “undetermined” by BC Coroners Service. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)

The death of Chilliwack’s Shaelene Keeler Bell has now been classified as “undetermined” by BC Coroners Service.

The report was released to Black Press Media by Bell’s mother, Alina Durham, on Thursday, Nov. 10.

“Unfortunately, this is another broken system,” Durham said after receiving the report, parts of which she thinks are misleading.

Bell, a 23-year-old mother of two, was last seen on Jan. 30, 2021 and was reported missing to Chilliwack RCMP the next day. Her body was found on June 2, 2021 in the Fraser River near Coquitlam.

READ MORE: Body of missing Chilliwack 23-year-old mom found

“Port Authority workers found her in the Fraser River, between the Pattullo and Port Mann bridges,” the coroner’s report stated. “An autopsy revealed the cause of death was drowning. Additionally, there was no evidence of traumatic injury. Toxicological testing revealed the presence of her prescription medications.”

The immediate cause of death was “asphyxia due to, or a consequence of, drowning.”

Coroners’ reports place the death into one of five classifications: accidental, homicide, natural, suicide, or undetermined. Bell’s death was found to be undetermined.

On Feb. 1, 2021, police found her vehicle parked at the end of Ballam Road in Chilliwack near the Fraser River and, despite extensive searches by the police and the community, she remained missing until June 2, 2021.

Police did not find evidence to support foul play.

“Investigation did not reveal how or when Shaelene Bell entered the water. Family reported she was a competent swimmer,” the report stated. “She attended Chilliwack (General) Hospital on the evening of Jan. 29, 2021, and staff arranged an outpatient mental health appointment as she requested help with stress.”

Durham commented on the report after reading it.

“There’s a very misleading paragraph. I feel that they’re implying something when we have no facts based on it at all,” she said.

“I’m so heartbroken for Shae. I’m disgusted with our system.”

RELATED: Letters of support needed to get Shaelene’s Missing Adult Alert in place, says Chilliwack mom


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Jenna Hauck

About the Author: Jenna Hauck

I started my career at The Chilliwack Progress in 2000 as a photojournalist.
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