Keith Zilinsky died in a house fire on Sunday, but in the view of his grieving mother, it’s alcoholism that took his life.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Daphne Nixon believes her son fell asleep with a cigarette in his hand after a long day of drinking in the house at 511 Grassie Blvd., in the Harbour View South area of Winnipeg. Initial findings from fire officials seem to support her narrative, she said.
Zilinsky, 40, had struggled with alcoholism since he was 16 years old, his mother said.
She wants her son's death to raise public awareness that Manitoba needs more support services to help alcoholics recover.
"We tried everything for the past 12 years and nothing worked," she said through long pauses.
Zilinsky attended programs at the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba and many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. However, he told his mother the AA meetings were religion based, something he didn’t relate to.
Alcoholics Anonymous' 12-step program for abstinence encourages recovering alcoholics to seek their personal choice of "a higher power," but it doesn't prescribe any particular faith group or institution.
Nixon noted Manitoba has treatment facilities for drug addicts, but lacks affordable and effective therapy for alcoholics.
"Unless you got thousands and thousands of dollars, you can’t get help," she said.
The AFM is provincially run and provides services, including recovery programs for alcoholics, free of charge.
Nixon took over the mortgage of her son's Grassie Boulevard home because alcoholism prevented him from holding down a job and put him into debt.
"He loved that house," she said.
Emergency crews responded to a call at 7:45 p.m. and arrived on scene to the home blazing with flames and smoke coming out of it. Crews searched inside and found Zilinsky, who they immediately declared dead.
Nixon was alerted to the fire by a telephone call from her son’s neighbour, telling her there was a fire at the home. She said the fire must have happened quickly because her husband had driven by the area just 30 minutes earlier.
Nixon arrived at the scene but was sent home by crews, who drove to her home after 10 p.m. to let her know her son had died.
"We’ve been through hell and back," she said.
Crews declared the fire under control at 8:36 p.m. and say the home sustained significant damages.
Zilinsky was a father of two daughters, 23 and 14 years of age.
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Updated on Tuesday, February 4, 2020 at 10:29 AM CST: Corrects age of daughter.