Trucker should have slowed down 20 km/h, says collision expert

A gravel truck driver needed to be travelling almost 20 km/h slower to have avoided plowing into two vehicles including a school bus which resulted in the death of a 17-year-old student, provincial court heard Tuesday.

A Wolf Creek School Division bus with students aboard collided with a larger vehicle on Hwy 53 northeast of Rimbey on Thursday morning.

RIMBEY — A gravel truck driver needed to be travelling almost 20 km/h slower to have avoided plowing into two vehicles including a school bus which resulted in the death of a 17-year-old student, provincial court heard Tuesday.

Cpl. Gord Baker, an RCMP traffic collision reconstructionist, told court Peter Oliver Jorgensen, 28, was going a minimum of 88 km/h when his skid marks started on April 8, 2008 about 8:14 a.m. on a foggy road two km east of the intersection of Hwy 53 and 20.

Baker told Judge John Holmes of Red Deer the skid marks were measured at 68.4 metres long to the spot it came to rest after first clipping a SUV stopped behind the bus and the bus which was loading four students.

Jennifer Noble of Rimbey was killed when she was ejected from the bus while two other students were injured.

Jorgensen, of Bluffton, is charged with careless driving and driving too fast for road conditions under the Traffic Safety Act. The maximum fine for careless driving is $2,300.

Baker said Jorgensen would have needed to proceed at 69 km/h to have stopped at the SUV.

Baker said when he drove from Red Deer to the crash scene arriving at 9:23 a.m. he encountered thick fog at times which prevented him from seeing the end of his vehicle.

Other times he could see 100 metres.

He said the crash scene was in a valley where fog tends to settle.

He said Jorgensen would have taken about 2.5 seconds to perceive he was coming upon a problem.

Baker allowed the generally accepted principle of 1.5 seconds for reaction and perception time and one second for the fog as time factors.

Baker said the factors contributing to the crash included the weather, the size and weight of the vehicle Jorgensen was driving, which was an empty Kenworth tractor and trailer, and traffic in the area on a school morning.

Baker said he drives in emergency situations frequently and always is aware of the weather and road conditions.

“Your senses have to tighten up more.

“One could think your senses should be keen. But that’s just me,” Baker added.

He also said the position of the school bus parked just inside the shoulder line was a factor.

“Parking a bus in that position about the middle of the lane is unsafe,” he said.

Wolf Creek School District bus driver Ron Adams, 62, of Rimbey, testified Monday he had no instructions from the district to pick up Carey Anderson’s children in their driveway.

Anderson testified he talked to Adams about the driver avoiding stopping at his driveway if weather conditions were poor.

“We just live six to eight minutes from the school so we could take them,” Anderson said.

Adams testified earlier he couldn’t recall the conversation and if Anderson wanted to change the pickup spot he would have to approach the school district.

Anderson said when he asked the school district about his children being picked up in his driveway it “didn’t seem as important from an accident point of view.

“It seemed if they did it for us they would have to do it for everyone,” Anderson said.

He also said one of his girls was almost run over the previous spring when the drop off spot after school was across the highway forcing his girls to cross the road to get home.

Anderson said he “demanded” that the drop spot be changed to his driveway and it was almost immediately.

Const. Bill Coulthard of Rimbey RCMP, who was the first officer on the crash scene, said Jorgensen had a clean driving record.

“He is a salt of the earth,” said the officer while wiping away tears when asked to describe the reputation of the accused.

Coulthard said he knew Jorgensen as a young boy since he had served 25 years in the community.

Adams will also have a trial in October after he was charged under the Traffic Safety Act with failing to load and unload at safe times.

Jorgensen’s trial is set to wrap up today.

Contact Jack Wilson at jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

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