Family of VIU student who died urge anyone who is struggling to reach out

The 21-year-old Vancouver Island University student who died after falling from the fifth and top floor of the school’s library on Monday is being remembered by family as a bright and caring person who was a whiz with computers.

Spencer Stone Shutes was studying computer science and had just completed the first year of his electrical apprenticeship at the Nanaimo university, said his 24-year-old brother, Brandon Stone.

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“For 21 years, he was my best friend,” Stone said.

Shutes loved his family and his Russian blue cat, Simba.

Shutes’ nickname was “fact-man,” his brother said, because he retained an encyclopedic knowledge about so many topics.

Shutes devoured documentaries and loved watching the X Files and Top Gear. He graduated from Wellington Secondary School in Nanaimo in 2015 with top marks. Stone said any suggestion of skipping school was politely turned down by his younger brother.

Shutes, Stone and Stone’s girlfriend all worked for Shaw Cable.

“He was very good at that job and well-loved among his team,” Stone said.

Stone, a musician, sometimes played gigs at Longwood Brew Pub and one of his favourite photos of Shutes is from a night he watched the gig alongside their mother.

Shutes, wearing a button-up shirt and wire-frame glasses, is smiling and raising his glass. Stone said that’s how he’ll always remember his brother.

Shutes lived with his mother and supported her financially, as she is on permanent disability.

Stone has started a Go Fund Me donation page to help their mother financially. “He would have wanted her to be taken care of, that was always at the forefront of his mind,” Stone said.

Shutes was busy with work, school and looking after their mom, and there was no indication he was struggling, Stone said.

“I never thought that this would happen and having it happen first-hand shows me it’s so important for every person to know you do have people who care about you and you do have people who you can reach out to.

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed beyond belief and you feel like you have no options, just give yourself an hour, talk to someone on the phone. Because those moments can pass. Just seek out somebody before you do something that you can’t take back.”

The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating the death. No foul play is suspected.

Coroners Service spokesman Andy Watson could not confirm the cause of death, saying it’s early in the investigation. “We look to determine who died, when, where and by what means. We’re in the early stages of the investigation.”

A date has yet to be set for a funeral.

In a statement, Vancouver Island University thanked the school community “for coming together to support each other as we navigate through the impacts of the tragic loss that occurred on Monday.”

The school is providing counselling to anyone who witnessed the death or anyone who is struggling with the news.

Shutes’ family gave the university permission to identify him.

“Our heartfelt thoughts are with his family and friends and everyone who has been impacted,” the university said in a statement. “At times like this, it is important that we continue to come together with kindness and respect and provide support to each other, as we come to terms with what has happened. We are heartened that VIU and the broader community continues to support Spencer’s family and friends and each other in so many different and compassionate ways.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

• The family’s donation page is at GoFundMe.com; search for Spencer Stone Shutes.

• Anyone who is struggling can access around-the-clock support through the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.

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