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Crown argues truck driver’s ‘intentional lack of care’ caused crash that killed 4

Dunhill Tabanao, who is accused of four counts of criminal negligence and two counts of dangerous driving, leaves the Kingston court during his trial in November 2019.
Dunhill Tabanao, who is accused of four counts of criminal negligence and two counts of dangerous driving, leaves the Kingston court during his trial in November 2019. File

On the second day of closing submissions, the prosecution argued that 39-year-old Dunhill Tabanao was criminally responsible for the deaths of four people, and the injuries of two others, in a Highway 401 crash two years ago in Kingston.

Tabanao is facing four counts of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily for the deaths of 44-year-old Christine Hanrahan and her partner, 40-year-old Pierre Courville, as well as her 25-year-old son Mitchell Caird and his friend, 21-year-old Zack MacGregor.

READ MORE: Defence says Tabanao not ‘morally blameworthy’ in Highway 401 crash that killed 4

Crown attorney Gerard Laarhuis presented the summary of his case on Tuesday, arguing there was evidence that Tabanao was reaching for something on the ground for nearly a minute right before the crash.

Laarhuis argued there is data from the truck that shows Tabanao pressed hard on the throttle five times in the minute before the crash, despite the fact that cruise control was on until the moment of impact.

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The counsel also noted that following the crash, the truck driver told two witnesses and an OPP officer that he was reaching for something before the crash.

“I bent down to pick something up and then that happened,” Patrick Sevigny, a truck driver involved in the collision said Tabanao told him right after the incident.

4 dead, 2 injured in Hwy. 401 crash near Kingston
4 dead, 2 injured in Hwy. 401 crash near Kingston
Sevigny also claims that Tabanao said: “No, this is not the first time it happens [sic] to me,” referencing a previous collision the truck driver was involved in.

Throughout the trial, the Crown presented evidence from OPP reconstructionist Jeremy Doolan and testimony from others on the scene who noted it should have been impossible for Tabanao not to see traffic stopped in front of him if he was paying attention to the road.

The collision happened on May 11, 2017, after midnight on what Laarhuis described as a clear night. According to the Crown, traffic was moving in a “stop-and-go” fashion just west of the Joyceville exit in a line-up of transports and vehicles about three-kilometers long, 900 metres of which would have been visible before a bend in the road.

The lineup was caused by a lane reduction and a small traffic matter that occurred farther up that evening.

READ MORE: Trial of Quebec truck driver involved in Hwy. 401 crash that killed 4 continues

The day before, the defence argued it was possible the stop-and-go nature of the traffic may have made it difficult for Tabanao to tell that vehicles had slowed on the highway.

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But Laarhuis presented evidence from several witnesses, who themselves noted seeing traffic slowed from one kilometre to 700 metres before the traffic slowed.

Laarhuis quoted Sevigny’s testimony again, saying it would have been “impossible” for Tabanao, a professional truck driver, not to see the brake lights and hazard lights of the traffic slowed ahead.

The Crown said that if Tabanao was indeed distracted by reaching for something on the ground for a full minute before the crash, causing him to look away from the highway, this amounted to an “intentional lack of care.”

“Nothing happened here that was beyond his control, it was very possible for him to avoid this,” Laarhuis argued.

READ MORE: Trial begins for truck driver involved in Hwy. 401 collision that killed 4 in Kingston

On Monday, the defence also noted evidence that Tabanao may have tried to brake a second before the crash, and tried to swerve, but the Crown argued that evidence wasn’t credible, and stood by evidence that the truck driver wasn’t looking at the road at all before the crash.

A key piece of evidence for the prosecution was a 911 call made in the early morning hours of May 11, 2017, when Tabanao said: “Yes, I am the one who hit that car, I think it’s the fire or the truck.”

The worst vehicle affected in the collision was a Ford Focus, carrying four people who died during the crash, which exploded and caught fire following the impact. The Crown says this statement proves Tabanao wasn’t sure what he hit, because he never saw the traffic ahead of him.

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The judge is meant to make a decision on the case on March 27.