Two girls were celebrating a birthday before they were found dead in a hotel room in central Alberta on Easter Sunday, one of their families says.
RCMP have said the deaths at a Best Western hotel in Sylvan Lake, Alta., were those of a 12-year-old girl from that community and of a 13-year-old from Red Deer, about 25 kilometres east.
The family of Olivia Johnson, 13, said in an emailed statement that the girls had a room next door to a parent, who would check in periodically.
“The night Olivia passed she was with a friend, enjoying a birthday gathering in the way most young women like to do — celebrating with a dinner with parents, swimming and doing each other’s makeup,” her family said.
“The hole Olivia has left in our hearts and in our lives is enormous, and our family is still trying to come to terms with the reality of not having her bounce into the house, spunky and smiling.”
Olivia’s family remembered her as compassionate, generous and kind.
“She loved to laugh, and her sense of humour was contagious, often making others laugh right along with her.”
RCMP Cpl. Troy Savinkoff said Wednesday there is no indication of potential homicide or suicide, but an overdose is a possibility that has not been confirmed.
He said the medical examiner is working to determine the cause of death, including the results of toxicology that can take anywhere from a few days to a few months.
“We know there are many unanswered questions, and some we may never have answers to,” the Johnson family said.
The family expressed confidence the RCMP investigation will shed more light on how the evening unfolded.
“Speculation about what happened will do nothing to further this work, and will only bring more hurt in an already incredibly difficult time,” the family said.
Olivia was part of The Red Deer Indigenous Dance Troupe.
“What a gift she is to our community,” the group said of the girl in a post. “We will miss her Kokum energy and beautiful smile deeply.”
A wake will run from 10 a.m. on April 17 to 11 a.m. on April 18, followed by her funeral at 11 a.m. on April 18, also at the hall. Mourners are invited back to Festival Hall to share a meal following her burial.