The triple-fatal collision between Robert Major’s Dodge Ram pickup and a semi-truck west of Saskatoon felt like a bomb going off, a Saskatoon jury heard Wednesday.
Neale Lensen was hauling a double-trailer loaded with vehicles westbound on Highway 16 near Langham, Sask., when he said he noticed something out of the corner of his eye.
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According to the driver of the semi, a pickup truck was moving fast and it appeared the driver wasn’t paying attention.
“It was like an explosion and that was obviously the point of impact,” the semi driver of 30-plus years testified, at times, choking back tears.
Lensen said he was driving at 90 kilometres per hour on cruise control and he didn’t have time to make a defensive maneuver before his vehicle was T-boned at the highway’s intersection with Range Road 3083 on Feb. 22, 2016.
“It just blew me right into the ditch. I couldn’t do nothing. It was incredible,” he said.
Robert Major was driving the northbound pickup involved in the crash.
Appearing in Saskatoon’s Court of Queen’s Bench, Major is charged with three counts each of dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, criminal negligence causing death, and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
After exiting his truck, Lensen said he walked to the wreckage of the Dodge Ram. It was wedged between the semi’s cab and trailer.
“I could hear this voice inside, saying ‘hurry – there’s kids in here,’” Lensen said.
Three people died in the crash: 26-year-old Kimberly Oliverio, nine-year-old Theodore Cardinal and four-year-old Brenden Major.
Oliverio was Major’s girlfriend, while the boys were two of Major’s sons. Two other children and a man from the pickup survived the crash.
Lensen’s stiff neck and sore leg subsided after a week, but he remained off work for three to four months due to “mental issues.”
He thinks of the crash every day, still finds himself in tears and the thought of the children involved has never left him, court heard.
“These kids don’t get to enjoy life anymore,” Lensen said.
Court also received a detailed description of the intersection where the crash occurred from Ag in Motion official Daved Meakin.
The collision happened next to the grounds of the annual farm trade show. In addition to temporary exhibits during the event, the field also had a few permanent structures between the grid road and Highway 16.
At least two weeks before the crash, Meakin noticed the stop sign on Range Road 3083 at Highway 16 had been knocked over.
He stopped and took pictures of what he said was caused by a vehicle used to trim trees. Meakin said he brought the concern to officials with the rural municipality.
“We knew the stop sign was down and it was unfortunate an accident happened there,” Meakin said.
He returned to the intersection after learning of the crash and spoke to an officer on scene.
Under cross-examination, Meakin acknowledged he told the officer that without the sign, “there is very little in the dark to indicate that you’re approaching the highway.”
During trial, he said he was mistaken, as there are a number of reflectors that would have been visible to drivers heading northbound on Range Road 3083.
The stop sign played a “small role” in the crash, Crown prosecutor Michael Pilon told the jury in his opening statement Monday.
Major was using his phone while his truck was travelling more than 55 km/h above the speed limit prior to the crash, Pilon argued.
None of the seven people in the overloaded truck were wearing seat belts, Pilon said.
The trial is scheduled to conclude Jan 25.