Trial of trucker accused in death of Bedford boy underway in Windsor

Carole Morris-Underhill
Published on June 22, 2015

WINDSOR - A Level 4 collision reconstructionist took the stand June 22 to describe the scene of a Highway 101 crash that resulted in the death of a young boy two summers ago.

Const. David Sullivan spent the better part of the morning June 22 discussing his report and involvement with the case.

It was a sunny, dry summer day when a 2006 Kenworth semi-tractor trailer slammed into the back of a passenger vehicle stopped in a construction zone.

“There is no evidence on the roadway of any mechanical failure or environmental factors that would have contributed to this collision,” Sullivan told the court.

Sullivan was speaking as a Crown witness at the trial of Mohammad Younus, a 61-year-old Montreal-based truck driver who is charged with dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. He is also charged with altering his log books.

Sullivan, who is stationed with the RCMP South Shore Traffic Services in Bridgewater, has provided his expert opinion at four other trials.

Younus, with his left arm in a sling, and his son Ahmad sat next to defence lawyer Chris Manning throughout the testimony. A Punjabi translator sat to the right of the courtroom.

During the morning session, Sullivan described the process he takes when being called to investigate and piece together what happened at an accident scene. On average, his services are required about 25 times a year, he said.

Younus' charges stem from a multi-vehicle accident near the Highway 101 ramp to Falmouth in a construction zone. It's alleged the tractor trailer Younus was driving slammed into the back of a minivan carrying a 38-year-old woman and three young children. The minivan was at the end of a line of traffic that had been at a standstill due to the construction.

The collision forced the 2012 Dodge Caravan into a 2005 Saturn that was being towed by a motor home.

“Any occupants inside this vehicle would have experienced a severe change in direction and pattern several times all within milliseconds of the initial impact,” said Sullivan.

The minivan was carrying an adult driver and three children – all requiring booster seats.

“The Caravan travelled a total of 18.1 metres” from the point of impact with the truck until it came to a stop, Sullivan noted.

A six-year-old boy from Bedford, who was ejected from the van, and an eight-year-old girl were both airlifted to the IWK Health Centre following the accident. The boy died in hospital the next day. Younus, the driver of the minivan, and a three-year-old girl were also treated for non-life-threatening injuries.


The collision

The expert witness described the scene of the accident to the court, indicating he witnessed a “debris field and black tire marks” when he arrived.

The location of the skid marks was the focus of much discussion throughout the first day of trial. Sullivan testified that the tractor trailer's anti-lock braking system was activated. Based on the evidence he found at the scene, Sullivan said the truck hit the right rear side of the minivan, which caused the van to rotate. The van, now facing sideways, collided with a Saturn that was being towed by a motor home. That impact caused the van to roll onto its side.

According to various data obtained from the vehicles involved in the crash, the driver of the minivan was not accelerating at the time of the collision, and had her service brake on. It was noted that in the second leading up to the impact, the tractor trailer was travelling 50 miles per hour (about 80.5 kilometres per hour).

After striking the vehicle, the truck driver veered to the right, avoiding hitting additional vehicles, and went off the road, the court heard.

“This collision is consistent with a collision with a Kenworth that's travelling (at) too high of a rate of speed to maintain safe control, which would allow a vehicle to stop at a safe distance for stopped or slowing traffic,” said Sullivan.

Throughout the testimony, the court heard about the signs warning motorists of the impending construction zone.

Sullivan noted that from the initial sign, which cautioned that fines are doubled in construction zones, to the start of the skid marks at the scene, it was 1,700 metres. The speed of 90 kilometres per hour was clearly posted entering the undivided section of the highway, where the construction was underway.

“Using a police vehicle odometer, the distance was measured for approximately 400 metres from where the driver of the semi would have had (a) clear, straight line of visibility to the first area of impact,” noted Sullivan. “The straight section of highway would have extended for approximately 1,000 metres in total.”

It is anticipated there will be more discussion concerning the truck's braking system when the trial resumes Tuesday.

Sullivan said the truck was inspected by commercial vehicle inspectors on July 10, 2013 and there were “apparent defects” with the front braking system.

“A longer safe braking distance would be required to stop the Kenworth to compensate for this brake deficiency,” he told the court.

The defence lawyer pointed out that the area where the collision occurred was a “notorious stretch of highway” that's prone to accidents. He suggested that for a driver coming from Montreal, this would be the first real stretch of highway that wasn't twinned.

Manning asked Sullivan if he would agree that his client's action to veer right away from traffic “likely saved other lives.” Sullivan agreed.

The trial continues June 23 at 10 a.m.


Follow editor Carole Morris-Underhill on Twitter for updates from the courtroom.