B.C.’s independent police watchdog is not recommending charges in a March 2020 car crash that left one person dead in Campbell River.
On March 28, 2020, Campbell River RCMP were investigating a break-and-enter at a mall at the intersection of Westgate Road and the Island Highway in Willow Point. According to a report by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO), one of the officers was pulling out of the mall parking lot to investigate some noises nearby. He executed a U-turn around a traffic island from the southbound lane into the northbound lane.
At the same time, a dark-coloured Subaru sped up to the scene, and swerved to avoid crashing into the police car. The Subaru struck the median and turned across the highway striking a tree. One person was ejected from the vehicle and died in hospital later that day. The report says there was no contact between the Subaru and the RCMP vehicle.
The investigation by the IIO concluded that the incident was caused due to the driver’s high rate of speed, and not the actions of any RCMP officers.
After the passenger was ejected, RCMP members provided first aid and called for Emergency Health Services and the Fire Department. The passenger was transported to the hospital, where he later died of his injuries.
The driver was uninjured, and was arrested for impaired care or control of a conveyance (motor vehicle), and made a number of statements when in the back of the police vehicle, which were recorded by in-vehicle equipment. According to the IIO report, the driver admitted he was speeding. The report says that at one point he was left alone in the vehicle when he said to himself that he felt the need to be “acting sober.”
“I’ll hundred per cent admit I was speeding,” he said to police while he was being transported to the RCMP detachment. “I was. I was speeding. I was going over the speed limit but if no one haphazardly pulled in front of me and had shoulder checked then it wouldn’t have happened and my friend wouldn’t be…”
The quote in the report trails off at that point.
He later gave a statement to RCMP members, where he said that the officer involved “pulled out of a parking lot in front of me and I had to swerve to miss him… there wasn’t enough time to brake.”
The driver did not give a statement directly to the IIO, on advice from his lawyer.
There were three officers who were witnesses to the event quoted in the report. The first said that he witnessed the crash and that the “vehicle appeared to ‘clip’ the curb of the median, causing it to spin around.”
A second officer said he saw the Subaru travelling “at least twice the speed limit” and that the officer involved had later applied a tourniquet to the passenger’s arm before the passenger was transported to hospital.
The third officer did not witness the crash itself, but said that the subject officer was helping the victim.
Evidence from the scene, CCTV footage and RCMP dash cams were analyzed, and a collision expert determined the Subaru had been travelling between 136 and 155 km/h.
“If the Subaru had been traveling at the speed limit, upon seeing (the) police vehicle (the driver) would have been able to bring the Subaru to a complete stop, if desired, well short of the Westgate intersection,” the report says.
The IIO now considers the matter closed, and will not be recommending charges.