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Grief grips B.C. ecstasy victim's high school

01/18/2012 09:05 EST | Updated 03/19/2012 05:12 EDT

Both grief and a sense of frustration are gripping staff and students at a Metro Vancouver high school after one of their own died early Saturday after taking ecstasy.

Kato Burgess, 16, was a student at Cloverdale's Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary.

“Lot of sad people around,” said student Hayden Hamilton. “A lot of people crying. There's, like, counsellors everywhere. Having to deal with it.”

The number of comments on a Facebook memorial for Burgess continues to grow.

“I can't believe you're gone," said one message.

“This doesn't seem real to me," said another.

Potentially deadly additive

Tests results have not been released yet, but B.C.’s chief coroner suspects that Burgess's death is yet another case involving ecstasy laced with an additive that might be killing people.

That extra ingredient, PMMA, has been detected in samples from five out of 18 victims of fatal reactions to ecstasy in B.C. in the past six months.

PMMA is a chemical that has been mixed into some ecstasy pills to increase the stimulant effect of the party drug.

Five people who have died in Calgary also took ecstasy cut with PMMA, police said.

Even with all the recent publicity surrounding ecstasy, some people at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary aren't surprised the deaths continue.

Deadly gamble

“It doesn't change anything,” said student Tyler Wheatley. “People just do it. We know what meth does and people still do it. We know what every drug does and people still do it.”

Another student agreed.

“Teenagers are kind of stupid, and they don't really think about it,” said Sidney Cocking “So it wouldn't surprise me if people are still taking it, regardless of the danger.”

Drug counsellor Robb McGirr feels the vast majority of kids are getting it, and staying away from illicit drugs.

As a member of a local school board drug team, McGirr is familiar with the gamble young people take by using the drug.

“It's an unfortunate exclamation mark to the tragic risks associated with taking ecstasy,” said McGirr. “It's not new information to us, but the fact that we've had such a high level of events in the last little while is in fact new.”

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