Whether or not a commercial truck driver properly checked his brakes on a summer day in 2016 before driving on one of the most dangerous highways in North America is in question in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack this week.
Roy D. McCormack is facing eight counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and one count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle after he was involved in a multi-vehicle collision on Highway 5 (Coquihalla Highway) on August 5, 2016.
The five-day trial began in courtroom 201 in from of Justice Peter Edelmann with the court clerk reading the charges aloud to McCormack, who was in attendance in person in the prisoner’s box.
He pleaded not guilty to all eight charges of criminal negligence and the one count of dangerous operation.
Each of the individual charges are tied to the name of the eight people injured in the serious collision on the summer day near Box Canyon on the Coquihalla.
Crown counsel Grant Lindsey told the court that his witness list included one RCMP officer, three people who were on the highway at the time of the accident, and two commercial vehicle experts.
“Most of what happened is not in dispute,” Lindsey told the court, adding that traffic was stopping for construction.
“He reached traffic that was either stopped or stopping. He could not stop his tractor trailer unit causing a collision that caused bodily harm to many people.”
The crux of the case will be whether or not his actions or inactions before and while driving amount to criminal negligence in the criminal code.
Crown’s first witness was Const. Peter Ostrom, an experienced RCMP officer out of the Chilliwack detachment who patrols the highways and spends considerable time on the Coquihalla.
Ostrom said he was dispatched at approximately 2:30 p.m. on August 5, 2016 to the crash scene in the Box Canyon area south of the Great Bear Snow Shed, one of the steepest places on the infamous highway.
Asked how well the Coquihalla is maintained, Ostrom said in the winter it can be hard for crews to keep up with changing conditions, but in summer it is “well-maintained.”
He arrived in the northbound lanes to the large crash scene that was in the southbound lanes to a “chaotic” situation with lots of people out of their vehicles. An ambulance was already on scene and traffic was heavily backed up because of how busy the highway is in summer months.
A witness pointed out McCormack to Ostrom and he went to talk to the truck driver.
“I asked him what happened,” Ostrom told the court. “He said he was coming down the highway, he tried to slow down and he wasn’t able to.
“He did his best not to hit people.”
Lindsey said one witness Crown hoped the court would allow to testify via video would tell the court she saw “a smoking truck” near the snow shed leading up to the location of the crash.
Another witness driving southbound at the time of the crash has some dash-cam video from the start of the collision.
The trial began Monday (Feb. 22) and was scheduled to run for five days.
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