Son demands government help after Manitoba man dies in Mexican prison

The family of a Manitoba man who died in Mexico while serving a prison sentence in the country is asking the Canadian government for help dealing with the situation.

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Bruce Vigfusson died in a hospital on Monday in the northwestern Mexican city of Hermosillo, but his family only learned of his passing through a phone call from a prison inmate.

"We were actually the ones to tell the embassy that he passed away. Something is out of line there," Vigfusson's son, Colt, told The Canadian Press on Wednesday. "It's very stressful that there's not a Canadian helping us. This guy was born in Canada, raised in Canada and our Canadian government can't help him?"

Bruce Vigfusson was working in the mining industry in Mexico before his arrest in September 2012.

He was charged with assault -- and later convicted -- following a home invasion in which he allegedly attacked a thief, his son said.

During the home invasion, Vigfusson's son said his father wrestled a crowbar out of a thief's hand and used it on the home invader.

"These Mexicans fled out saying they'd been beat so then he got charged with assault," his son said. "All of our family has been sending him money in the last three years in that prison to keep him alive."

Vigfusson's son last heard from his father on Saturday, when he left him a voicemail saying he was ailing.

"He could hardly talk," he said. "He just said 'I'm really sick Colt."'

On Tuesday, an inmate who knew Vigfusson called the family and said the 45-year-old was dead, his son said.

Officials in Ottawa later told the family Vigfusson died from "a blood clot in the lung or a heart attack," his son said.

Vigfusson's son wants to bring his father's body back to Canada as soon as possible, but said he's not getting enough assistance from the federal government on the matter.

After speaking repeatedly with an official in Ottawa, he said he was told he had to go to Mexico to identify his father's body before it can be released.

"All he said was this is the first time a Canadian has died in a Mexican prison and they don't know how to handle it," Vigfusson's son said. "To get him to a morgue and then back to Canada is going to be $6,000."

Vigfusson's son asked for a guarantee from the Canadian consulate in Mexico that he would be afforded some "protection" if he travelled to the prison, but was told that wouldn't be possible.

"This is awful," he said of the family's situation. "It would be nice to see if someone could step up to the plate immediately to provide the protection to get down there or to help us financially or what step to take because I'd like to get this body back home to Canada immediately."

A spokesman with Global Affairs Canada said Canadian consular officials in Mexico are in contact with local authorities and are providing consular assistance to Vigfusson's family.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the Canadian Citizen who passed away in Mexico," said Francois Lasalle.


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