B.C.’s police watchdog is looking into the actions of a Nanaimo RCMP officer in connection with a head-on crash that killed two people on the Trans-Canada Highway near Duke Point on Monday morning. The Nanaimo officer tried to pull over a white pickup shortly before it drove the wrong way on the highway and slammed into a red SUV, the Independent Investigations Office said.
At around 12:40 a.m., the officer spotted a white GMC pickup truck leaving a residence in the Harewood area near 10th Street, the B.C. RCMP said in a statement. When the officer turned on the marked patrol car’s lights and sirens in an effort to pull over the truck, the driver failed to stop and continued to the Trans-Canada Highway.
The truck was last seen heading south in the northbound lanes of the highway, where it slammed into a red SUV heading north between Cedar Road and Duke Point. Both vehicles sustained heavy front-end damage.
The B.C. Coroners Service confirmed two people are dead, but their identities have not been released. The two people killed were the lone male drivers of each vehicle, the IIO said. The driver of the red SUV was in his 50s.
Ron MacDonald, IIO’s chief civilian director, said investigators will try to determine what happened between the police officer and the white truck.
“That will include, were lights and sirens engaged? How long were they engaged for if they were? [What were the] speeds involved, distance and time involved? Was the attempt to stop the vehicle terminated at some point? If so, when did that occur in relation to the collision?” MacDonald told the Times Colonist.
Answering those questions will be important in determining whether the officer’s actions played any role in the collision, he said.
The IIO is also looking into whether the truck was stolen.
“The background of the driver and whether the truck was stolen may be relevant pieces of information that might explain some of the actions of the driver of the truck,” MacDonald said. “We will therefore be working to confirm all such information during our investigation.”
MacDonald said it’s too early to say where exactly the officer tried to pull over the truck. “How far apart the officer was from the vehicle at the time of the collision is, of course, an important factor for us to consider.”
The officer has not yet been interviewed.
Officers are not compelled to provide statements to the IIO.
Investigators can rely on other information, MacDonald said, such as the officer’s radio broadcasts to dispatchers and GPS co-ordinates of the police cruiser, which can shed light on the vehicle’s speed and location.
The IIO is looking for witnesses to the head-on crash to determine whether the truck deliberately drove into the path of the SUV on the three-lane highway.
“That’s going to be difficult without witness testimony,” MacDonald said.
Nanaimo RCMP’s traffic unit and RCMP Integrated Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Services are conducting a concurrent investigation into the crash.
Anyone with information on the crash is asked to contact Nanaimo RCMP. The collision reconstruction report will be forwarded to the IIO and will inform part of the investigation, MacDonald said.
“The IIO B.C. is now investigating to determine whether police actions or inactions are linked to the drivers’ deaths,” the agency said in a statement. “As the matter is now under investigation by the IIO B.C., no further information will be released by police.”
The Independent Investigations Office investigates police-involved injuries or deaths to determine if an officer committed an offence.
The crash closed the highway’s northbound lanes for several hours. It reopened about 11:45 a.m.
The IIO is asking anyone who observed or has dashcam footage of the vehicle on Highway 1 to contact the IIO witness line at 1-855-446-8477.