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Fatality inquiry continues

Emotions were running high this week as the inquiry into the death of a teenage girl who died shortly after leaving provincial foster care continued.

Emotions were running high this week as the inquiry into the death of a teenage girl who died shortly after leaving provincial foster care continued.

The provincial fatality inquiry is looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of Samantha Martin, a 13-year-old girl with a rare chromosomal disorder, who died from cardiac arrest.

While in this case it is clear the cardiac arrest was the cause of death, the inquiry is trying to determine precisely what caused it.

Samantha was placed into foster care shortly after birth and her mother Velvet Martin has testified previously the family was told that was the only way her daughter would receive support for her medical conditions.

Martin contends the cardiac arrest was caused by untreated seizures the foster mother ignored and has also alleged the young girl was mistreated and malnourished.

The foster mother, who cannot be identified under a publication ban, took the stand Friday morning and denied all of those allegations.

The tense relationship between Martin and the foster mother has boiled over several times with the foster mother accusing Martin of glaring at her and Martin accusing the foster mother of smirking throughout the hearing.

Martin has also been terse in many of her exchanges with Tom Engel, the foster mother's lawyer.

The foster mother said she had cared for more than 20 children since 1990, including many with special needs and always treated the children like her own.

She said Samantha was a happy child and she never witnessed any seizure activity in her.

Inquiry counsel David Syme took her through several documents where school officials noted concerns about seizures, as well as letters Martin sent with concerns.

The woman said she did not want to take the child to a doctor for seizures she had never seen.

"I didn't witness a seizure and I know quite a bit about seizures," she said. "If I would have seen it, I would have taken her to a doctor."

She also said because of the unique living arrangement, Martin was free to take her daughter to the doctor as a joint guardian and could have done so if she had concerns.

"She could take Samantha to the doctor anytime she wants."

Early involvement

Earlier this week the court heard about concerns raised with Children's Services about the girl's care.

Teachers and other officials at Samantha's school brought up the concerns and the agency opened up an assessment to determine if a full-blown investigation was necessary.

Natasha Dancause, a caseworker with the department, said the people who came forward were concerned about bruises and scratches that Samantha had, as well as the quality of lunches she brought to school.

Dancause said that, after discussing the matter with school officials, caseworkers and support workers who worked in the home, they decided not to investigate.

She said there were suggestions the bruises were the result of Samantha hitting herself and that the caseworkers were to bring up the other issues with the foster mother.

The inquiry is set to resume on Monday and could continue for another two weeks.

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