Press Release – October 4, 2011
The Director of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ian Scott, has concluded that there are no reasonable grounds to charge an officer of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) with a criminal offence in regards to the death of 52-year-old Judith Fleury in a collision in Morrisburg in July of this year.
The SIU assigned four SIU investigators and two SIU forensic investigators (FI) to probe this incident. SIU FI investigators videotaped and photographed the scene and forensically mapped the collision site and the surrounding environment.
The Crash Retrieval modules from both vehicles were also collected and examined.
Pertinent information was also requested and received from the OPP. One officer was designated as a subject officer and six officers were designated as witness officers. The SIU also located and interviewed six civilian witnesses.
The SIU investigation determined that in the early hours of July 31, 2011, the subject officer was driving alone westbound on Hwy 401 in a marked black OPP Suburban SUV canine vehicle with a police dog in the back. The SUV was equipped with emergency lights in its grill as well as a siren. The officer was responding to a call to assist other OPP units regarding a suspect apprehension pursuit of an alleged impaired driver who was traveling northbound on County Road 31 just north of the town of Morrisburg.
The officer activated his emergency equipment, turned onto County Road 31 and began accelerating. County Road 31 has a posted speed of 80 km/h. Ahead of him were two other OPP vehicles with their emergency equipment activated and involved in a suspect apprehension pursuit.
Ms. Fleury was driving a white Chevrolet Equinox van northbound on County Road 31. She had three passengers in the back seat of her vehicle that she had agreed to pick up from a social event being held on the shores of the St. Lawrence River in Morrisburg.
She saw the first two OPP vehicles involved in the pursuit and pulled her van over to the side of the road to let them pass. She then continued in a northerly direction on County Road 31.
The subject officer saw Ms. Fleury’s vehicle in the distance and moved over to the southbound lane in an attempt to pass it.
It appears that Ms. Fleury decided to make a left turn across County Road 31. According to the accident reconstruction report, at a speed of approximately 17 km/h, she turned directly in front of the Suburban driven by the subject officer at the driveway of 5120 County Road 31.
The front of the Suburban collided with the two left side doors of the Equinox with one second of pre-collision braking on the southbound side of the road. Just before braking the speed of the Suburban was in excess of the posted speed limit.
Both vehicles were pushed approximately 105 metres northbound into the west ditch of the county road. The right front corner of the Equinox struck a pole and came to rest immediately to the west of that pole.
The collision caused the death of the Ms. Fleury, and significant injuries to the two male passengers, while the third, a female passenger suffered minor injuries. As well, the subject officer sustained minor head injuries.
Director Scott concluded that, “While the subject officer was driving significantly over the speed limit seconds before the collision, pursuant to s. 128(13)(a) of the Highway Traffic Act, compliance with the speed limits does not apply to police officers in the lawful performance of their duties.
Here, the subject officer’s assistance in a suspect apprehension pursuit was a lawful execution of his duties and accordingly his speed alone cannot be considered to be unlawful.
Further, by all accounts, he had his emergency equipment activated. He could have reasonably concluded that Ms. Fleury would have seen the emergency lights and would not turn into the southbound lane.
Unfortunately, she turned directly into his path and the collision caused her death and significant injuries to two of her three passengers.
While this incident is a great tragedy, I have no grounds to believe the subject officer committed a criminal offence because he was in the lawful execution of his duties as he was attempting to pass Ms. Fleury’s vehicle.