Fatal crash was "accident waiting to happen"

| 5/31/2002

"An accident waiting to happen" is what a truckdriver recalled thinking June 7, 2000, when he saw a police cruiser straddling a busy Canadian highway, a court was told earlier this week.

Witness George Dorner testified at the dangerous driving trial for fellow trucker Terry DeMerchant that he and other truckers on his CB radio were fearful when they drove past three cruisers and a civilian car stopped at the side of Highway 401 in Ontario. The officers were involved with a "high-risk" arrest of an armed robbery suspect.

"My first impression when I saw it was there's an accident waiting to happen," said Dorner. Moments later, DeMerchant's semi rear-ended Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Marg Eve's cruiser and began a chain-reaction crash that killed Eve and seriously injured two other OPP officers and two civilians.

DeMerchant, of Ste. Agathe, Quebec, has pleaded not guilty to one count of dangerous driving causing death and four counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Dorner told the court he could see the cruiser's flashing lights as he approached. He heard other truckers on the CB say to move over to the passing lane.

Once behind another truck, Dorner said he couldn't see ahead because the back of the truck acted as a "billboard" and obstructed his view. "I couldn't see it until I was right on top of the scene," he said.

Another motorist testified he was surprised to see the cruiser straddling the road. "It stunned me for a second because you don't expect to see anything on the road." A few miles down the road, he saw several police cars quickly heading the opposite direction. "I knew exactly what had happened."