Trucker found not guilty for fatal crash

| 6/24/2002

A Canadian truckdriver accused of causing his rig to rear-end a police cruiser was acquitted by a judge June 17 of five counts of dangerous driving, four causing bodily harm and one causing the death of a police officer.

Ontario Superior Court Justice John Kerr said Terry DeMerchant, of St. Agathe, Quebec, faced "a situation that was fraught with danger" when his semi struck a police cruiser along Highway 401 in Ontario June 7, 2000. "There was nothing that could reasonably be done by the accused to avoid colliding with the vehicle," he said. The accident killed Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Marg Eve and seriously injured two other OPP officers and two civilians.

DeMerchant told authorities shortly after the accident he was driving behind another truck that suddenly weaved into the passing lane. After checking his mirror to see if he could switch lanes, DeMerchant said he looked up to find Eve's cruiser right in front of him.

The officers were involved in a "high-risk" arrest of an armed robbery suspect. Eve's cruiser was parked partly in the driving lane of the busy highway -- as reportedly was procedure during a high-risk arrest. DeMerchant struck the back of the cruiser, causing a chain-reaction accident.

Chatham-Kent OPP Staff Sgt. Doug Babbitt told news reporters he disagreed with the judge's ruling, but said police would be willing to make changes to take-down procedures if there is a call to do so. "Officers are going to take a long, hard look at the way we do our business out there," he said.