Moun­tie mostly at fault for crash

Judge as­signs 80 per cent of blame for 2014 col­li­sion to of­fi­cer go­ing 145 km/h

The Province - - NEWS - KEITH FRASER kfraser@post­media.com twit­ter.com/kei­thrfraser

An RCMP of­fi­cer is 80 per cent to blame for a high-speed col­li­sion that de­stroyed two ve­hi­cles, a B.C. judge has con­cluded.

In July 2014, Const. Chad Gor­man was at­tend­ing a call at an el­e­men­tary school in Lan­g­ley when he was no­ti­fied of a 911 call that came from a man claim­ing he was be­ing chased by some­one with a gun.

Gor­man ac­ti­vated the lights and siren on his po­lice cruiser and pro­ceeded west­bound along Fraser High­way at speeds of over 140 km/h. An­other po­lice cruiser was re­spond­ing at the same time and was ahead of Gor­man.

Around the same time, a Cal­gary fam­ily was driv­ing in their van to­ward an an­tique car mu­seum lo­cated near the Fraser High­way.

Shi­raz Meghji stopped the van at the in­ter­sec­tion of 268 Street and Fraser High­way be­fore pro­ceed­ing north into the in­ter­sec­tion.

As the van crossed the west­bound lane of the high­way, it was struck at a high speed by the po­lice cruiser, de­stroy­ing both ve­hi­cles.

In his rul­ing on the in­ci­dent, B.C. Supreme Court Jus­tice Bruce But­ler said that “some­what mirac­u­lously” no one was killed.

The of­fi­cer and the four fam­ily mem­bers in the van suf­fered some in­juries but all were able to walk away from the scene.

The is­sue at trial was whether one or both of the driv­ers was at fault, and if both were at fault, how li­a­bil­ity should be ap­por­tioned.

The RCMP de­fen­dants ar­gued that Meghji should be held solely re­spon­si­ble, say­ing the of­fi­cer was the “dom­i­nant” driver and Meghji was re­quired to yield the right-ofway when en­ter­ing a high­way and yield to an emer­gency ve­hi­cle.

Meghji ar­gued that Const. Gor­man should be found wholly or sub­stan­tially at fault, claim­ing he had com­plied with the law by yield­ing when he first ar­rived at the stop sign and then pro­ceeded with cau­tion.

He claimed the of­fi­cer was driv­ing at a reck­less speed and did not make a proper risk as­sess­ment in ac­cor­dance with his train­ing.

The judge found that when Meghji started for­ward into the in­ter­sec­tion, the po­lice cruiser was still far away from the in­ter­sec­tion, too far to con­clude that it was an im­me­di­ate haz­ard.

“Any haz­ard that ex­isted when Mr. Meghji en­tered the in­ter­sec­tion was cre­ated by the high speed of the Gor­man car, not by a fail­ure to pay at­ten­tion,” said the judge.

But­ler noted that an of­fi­cer driv­ing an emer­gency re­sponse ve­hi­cle is re­quired to bal­ance the risk of harm to the pub­lic and must slow his ve­hi­cle to a speed con­sis­tent with rea­son­able care when ap­proach­ing or en­ter­ing an in­ter­sec­tion.

He said he had “no hes­i­ta­tion” in con­clud­ing that Gor­man breached the stan­dard of care of a rea­son­able po­lice of­fi­cer in trav­el­ling on Fraser High­way at 145 km/h on a week­day af­ter­noon through a com­mer­cial/res­i­den­tial zone at speeds close to 90 km/h over the speed limit.

At the same time, Meghji’s de­ci­sion to drive through the in­ter­sec­tion in the man­ner he did was neg­li­gent since he knew that one emer­gency ve­hi­cle had al­ready passed at high speed and was aware of the pos­si­bil­ity that there could be a sec­ond emer­gency ve­hi­cle headed in the same di­rec­tion, said the judge.

Gor­man was found 80 per cent at fault but was not a party to the pro­ceed­ings. The min­is­ter of pub­lic safety and solic­i­tor gen­eral of B.C. will be li­able for Gor­man’s neg­li­gence in the course of per­form­ing his du­ties, the judge said. Meghji was found 20 per cent to blame. Dam­ages will be awarded at a later date.

RIC ERNST/PNG FILES

An RCMP cruiser was de­mol­ished, as was the van it col­lided with af­ter a crash in 2014 in the Lan­g­ley com­mu­nity of Alder­grove. Amaz­ingly, the of­fi­cer and a fam­ily of four in the van all walked away from the crash.

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