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Truck driver charged in Coquihalla crash showed ‘wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives’: Crown

Despite already having brake issues, Roy McCormack tackled the steepest hill on the infamous highway
Zopkios Brake Check on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack was seen entering the brake check with smoking brakes on Aug. 5, 2016, just before a multi-vehicle crash further down the road. His criminal negligence trial runs Feb. 22 to 26, 2021 in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack. (GoogleMaps)

A truck driver who did not undertake a thorough inspection of his brakes after he saw them smoking and before he descended the steepest hill on the most dangerous highway in Canada did not live up to his obligation to his profession and to other drivers on the road.

That’s what Crown counsel Grant Lindsey told a BC Supreme Court judge in Chilliwack on the final day of the trial of truck driver Roy McCormack.

Because McCormack’s brakes predictably failed after already having brake problems on Aug. 5, 2016 near the Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla highway leading to a multi-car crash injuring eight people, Lindsey said he is guilty of criminal negligence.

“He showed a wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives when he took on that hill,” Lindsey told Justice Peter Edelmann on Friday (Feb. 26).

McCormack is charged with eight counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and one count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle after he was involved in the crash multi-vehicle on that clear summer day in 2016.

READ MORE: Truck driver facing 8 counts of criminal negligence for 2016 Coquihalla crash

READ MORE: Truck driver charged with criminal negligence in Coquihalla crash is accused of ignoring smoking brakes

“Even in a normal brake check, he’s under a steeper obligation for a further investigation,” Lindsey said. “If he didn’t have the skills to diagnose the problem either with his tractor or his trailer, he had an obligation to contact someone who did.”

McCormack was the sole witness for the defence testifying to his actions that day. He said he picked up a trailer on the side of the road near Rogers Pass at the direction of his company at 9 a.m. He said he drove the “four or five” hours to Kamloops, then slept for four or five hours. He then took Highway 5A to Merritt, then continued on the Coquihalla.

But this timeline was put under severe scrutiny by Lindsey, since the crash happened at 2 p.m. that day so, Lindsey pointed out, the hours didn’t add up. That in addition to the fact that McCormack made a fraudulent entry in his log book was enough to ruin his credibility as a witness, Lindsey told the court.

“The honest details would have taken less time than the false entries,” Lindsey said of the log book entries he falsified. “It made zero sense to me… It boggles the mind why he would make false entries. It weighs heavily on his credibility.”

The trial for the 58-year-old Coquitlam resident began Monday (Feb. 22) and ran for five days.

Crown called a number of civilian witnesses, truck drivers and other drivers who saw McCormack’s rig on the Coquihalla that day or the accident scene, one RCMP officer, and experts on truck inspection and maintenance.

Defence counsel Philip Derksen called only McCormack for the defence. He said McCormack acted to the standards he was used to and that he was trained to do leading up until the brake failure.

McCormack testified said that soon after leaving the Zopkios Brake Check and when he was at or near the Great Bear Snowshed, he started to notice smoke coming from the rear left wheel on his trailer for the second time in just a few kilometres. Before he entered Zopkios he had notice smoke from the same location, but he said when he checked at the roadside stop, everything seemed fine.

As he lost all braking on the steep stretch of the Coquihalla, he plowed into several vehicles stopped for construction, injuring eight people, all named in the charges against him.

Regardless of his actions once out of control, the case hinges on whether McCormack’s inadequate proper pre-trip inspections alleged by the Crown amount to criminal negligence.

Justice Peter Edelmann will make his decision on guilt at a later date.

RELATED: UPDATE: Coquihalla reopened after pileup leaves 1 dead, dozens injured

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The Great Bear Snowshed on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack testified in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Feb. 25, 2021 that his brakes started smoking in about this location, and soon after he lost all braking, which led to a multi-vehicle crash further down the road on Aug. 5, 2016. (GoogleMaps)