Driver in fatal Highway 1 crash near Sicamous ‘author of all that misfortune,’ not police: IIO

Police say an eastbound vehicle was seen passing multiple vehicles near Salmon Arm, including an unmarked police vehicle. That vehicle later crashed, killing the female passenger. Courtesy: Submitted

Responsibility for a fatal Sicamous car crash one year ago is being laid at the feet of the driver of a speeding Honda Civic, not the Mounties who tried to stop him, B.C.’s police watchdog says.

The Honda Civic caught RCMP attention May 20, 2021, on Highway 1 near Sicamous when police officers saw it speeding, crossing double lines, and attempting to pass a semi-truck on a soft shoulder, according to the report from the Independent Investigations Office.

Police officers twice tried to stop the car carrying two people, but when that didn’t work they eventually deployed a spike belt near the Bruhn Bridge and the car eventually crashed. The driver was seriously injured and his passenger, a 28-year-old woman, died.

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The role Mounties played in that crash was the focus of an investigation by B.C.’s police watchdog.

“The deployment of a spike belt in front of a speeding vehicle is inherently risky, as was clearly demonstrated in this case,” Ronald J. McDonald, chief civilian director of the IIO, said in a report.

“Because of the risk of serious harm that it creates, it should only be resorted to when that risk is balanced by the risk posed to the public by the speeding driver himself.”

In this case, McDonald said, the speeding driver’s extremely dangerous behaviour quite reasonably raised concerns that the people in Sicamous would be in “significant danger” if the driver were allowed to proceed in and through the town.

“That being so, the use of a partial highway barricade and spike belt deployment was justified since the risk it created was less than the risk caused by (the driver).”

MacDonald added that the barricade and spike belt deployment was not exactly consistent with RCMP recommendations but it wasn’t improper either. It also didn’t contribute in any way to the harms suffered by the two people in the vehicle.

“The location chosen made it easy for (a driver) approaching from the west, to see the police vehicles in the road ahead and provided ample time to bring a vehicle to a safe stop before impacting the spike strip,” McDonald said.

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The driver, however, chose not to.

McDonald said the driver instead made the “unfortunate decision to swerve onto the soft, sandy shoulder, where the loss of traction evidently caused a dramatic loss of control and the resulting crash.”

That crash is what took the woman’s life and caused the driver’s injuries, not any police action.

McDonald said the driver was “the author of all that misfortune.”

While the passenger, a 28-year-old woman, died at the scene, the driver did not. When he was treated for a number of serious injuries, a toxicology screen was positive for amphetamines/methamphetamines and marijuana.

It was subsequently determined that the Honda had been reported stolen, and a number of different licence plates were found in and around the vehicle.

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It was mechanically inspected and an improvised repair to the brake system was noted that would have negatively impacted braking performance.

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