Two die in fire when SUV hits tree, then house in Calgary

Investigators say it doesn’t appear as if a police officer was chasing an SUV when it went out of control, struck a tree and then hit the basement of a home where it burst into flames.

CALGARY — Investigators say it doesn’t appear as if a police officer was chasing an SUV when it went out of control, struck a tree and then hit the basement of a home where it burst into flames.

“It doesn’t sound like it was a pursuit,” said Roy Fitzpatrick of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.

“From all indications that we have at this time … he deactivated his equipment momentarily after activating it and he last saw the car pulling away from him.”

ASIRT is an independent group that reviews cases involving police in which someone is seriously injured or killed.

Fitzpatrick, ASIRT’s assistant director, said a constable with the canine unit attempted to pull over the sport utility vehicle early Wednesday in a northeast Calgary neighbourhood.

“He attempted to stop the vehicle for whatever reason and he activated his emergency equipment. Now I don’t know if that means lights and siren or just lights,” he said. “The vehicle started to make evasive manoeuvres as if they wanted to flee from the police.”

The officer, identified by the Calgary Police Service as Const. Jens Lind, lost sight of the SUV and decided to patrol the area.

“Two to three minutes later … he came upon the car in the side of the house and it was on fire at the time,” Fitzpatrick said.

He didn’t know why the officer was trying to pull over the SUV in the first place, but the Calgary police said the vehicle was “suspicious.”

Police said Lind tried to put out the fire along with other officers who arrived. He was able to get the passenger out, but he died of his injuries in hospital. The driver died at the scene.

A 52-year-old woman who lives in the house was also taken to hospital with minor injuries, while an officer who was helping Lind was slightly hurt as well. There were no details about the officer’s injuries, but Fitzpatrick said they happened when the passenger was being treated.

“For whatever reason, there must have been a struggle or something. We don’t have that information.”

Fitzpatrick said the crash will be thoroughly reviewed. He couldn’t say how long that might take.