Autopsy planned to determine if Nain boy died of tuberculosis

Residents of Nain are in shock after the death of a 14-year-old boy from the Labrador community Sunday in St. John's — and fear it was tuberculosis.

Family and friends reeling after loss of Gussie Bennett in St. John's on Sunday

The residents of Nain, Labrador, are looking for answers after Gussie Bennett, 14, died in St. John's of Sunday night, reportedly due to tuberculosis. (Submitted by Katie Suarak)

The residents of Nain are in shock after the death of a 14-year-old boy from the northern Labrador community Sunday in St. John's — and fear it was tuberculosis.

Gussie Bennett went from a clinic in Nain to Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Friday, and was then flown to St. John's, where he died at the Janeway children's hospital on Sunday shortly before 10 p.m.

Family told Gussie had TB

Gussie's mother, Katie Suarak, posted on Facebook on Sunday that she was told by a doctor that her son had tuberculosis.

"I was very shocked at first to find out Gussie was being treated for TB, and family has been given indications that he was out getting treated for TB," said Richard Pamak, ordinary member of the Nunatsiavut government, told CBC's Labrador Morning on Tuesday.

The family was stunned, Gussie's aunt, Emily Bennett, told CBC.

"He's so young. Very young boy," she said. "He's a sweetheart. He was." 

Why another possible death as a result of TB, even though much has been done?- Richard Pamak

Pamak said it won't be known for sure if Gussie's death was due to TB until an autopsy is done.

"Gussie was your average young teenager who loved the outdoors, loved to go fishing, loved hockey," he said, adding that he was stunned by the news, given extra efforts put in place after tuberculosis outbreaks in Nain in 2009 and 2015.

"It was a bit of a shock, knowing much has been done over the last three years in regards to screening and controlling the spreading of TB, and to find out that Gus's death may be a result of TB, it certainly opens up a lot of questions and concerns from the community."

Community looking for answers — again

The community was looking for answers, and the Nunatsiavut government along with Labrador Grenfell Health and Eastern Health put together a plan to do to make sure everyone who came into contact with someone with a confirmed case of tuberculosis was tested, he said.

"There were planeloads and planeloads of people sent out to Goose Bay for a checkup, for testing."

Followups are still done to this day, said Pamak, as well as educational components.

He said if the teen's death is confirmed as due to tuberculosis, many questions will need to be answered.

"The community is asking why. Why another possible death as a result of TB, even though much has been done? What's the reason?" he said.

"Once we know definitely that it is TB-related, we will know what course of action to take afterwards."

With files from Labrador Morning