Fatalities board working on a full slate of inquiries

Fatality review hearings are planned for as many as six Central Albertans who have died in the last four years.

Fatality review hearings are planned for as many as six Central Albertans who have died in the last four years.

The Fatalities Review Board, acting under the Fatality Inquiries Act, has ordered inquiries for two people from Red Deer and people from Bowden Institution, Sylvan Lake, Rocky Mountain House and Stettler.

Inquiry dates have not been set yet for any of the six deaths. They are among 37 inquiries to be set, according to the Alberta Justice and Attorney General Department.

One of the two Red Deer people is Kaelyn Sahra Shelton, 23, who on Nov. 21, 2008, died in a single-vehicle collision while fleeing from police.

Wheelchair-bound Richard David Jacknife, 47, died on Nov. 11, 2010, in hospital, after he fell down a basement stairwell at his group home in Red Deer on Nov. 4.

Ronald Joseph Macaulay, 50, of Rocky Mountain House, died in hospital on Nov. 3, 2007, after being treated for alcohol intoxication. Macaulay was treated at hospital after being admitted the day before. He was found unresponsive early on Nov. 3.

Colin Cassell, 31, of Sylvan Lake, underwent emergency neurosurgery after a CT scan revealed bleeding on his brain on May 21, 2008. His condition deteriorated and he died the same day.

Cassell had been detained in police custody and then assessed at hospital on May 8, 2008, after complaints of severe headache. He was discharged May 9, 2008.

Gerald Ernest, 51, a Bowden Institution inmate, was found unresponsive in his cell at the federal jail on Sept, 27, 2009.

Craig Christians, 43, of Stettler died on May 5, 2007. He was driving on the highway in his taxi cab when he failed to negotiate a slight turn and drove head-on into an oncoming truck.

The reasons for delays in conducting the hearings can be numerous.

Scheduling courtroom space, meshing judge and lawyer schedules and arranging dates for medical personnel and various other witnesses is difficult.

Even a hearing for the death of police officers killed on duty can take time to set.

RCMP Const. James Lunblad, 41, of Camrose was killed on May 5, 2009, when he attempted a U-turn on Hwy 2A to chase a speeder and was struck on the drivers’ side by a truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene. A date for an inquiry into his death has also yet to be set.

Fatality inquiries are conducted by provincial court judges. The inquiries determine the identity of the deceased, date, time and place of death, and the circumstances of death.

The judge may make recommendations for the prevention of similar incidents, but can’t make any findings of legal responsibility. Once the inquiry is complete the judge provides a written report.