Traffic fine only penalty in snow-removal death

Jan 18, 2006 | Articles

The family of 21-year-old Jessica Holman-Price, who was killed by a snow-removal truck while waiting to cross a Westmount street with her 10-year-old brother, has been left with little recourse after police confirmed this week that criminal charges will not be laid in the case.

The family of 21-year-old Jessica Holman-Price, who was killed by a snow-removal truck while waiting to cross a Westmount street with her 10-year-old brother, has been left with little recourse after police confirmed this week that criminal charges will not be laid in the case.

The driver will receive only a traffic fine for failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians at an intersection. That is another blow to parents Jeannette Holman-Price and Peter Price, who learned this month that their attempts to file a lawsuit against the city would be unsuccessful because of Quebec’s no-fault law.

“I can’t just let it sit,” Holman-Price said.

“How can there be no accountability? At the end of the day, somebody is at fault – whether it be procedures, policies, the truck manufacturer.”

In the absence of legal recourse in Quebec, the family will seek advice from the British consulate (Price is a British national) and a London lawyer, she said.

“I can’t just leave this to no-fault insurance. She wasn’t a tire; she was a human being, and she did nothing wrong. She was standing exactly where she was meant to stand, doing exactly what she was meant to do, and she was taken from us, so somebody is at fault.”

Police told the family last weekend that the driver who struck their children as he turned west onto Sherbrooke St. from Strathcona Ave. on a green light probably did not see them because he had stopped beyond the stop line, which might have been covered by snow. As he turned, he clipped the snowbank on which Jessica and her brother P.L. were standing, knocking them underneath the vehicle.

According to witnesses, Jessica, a Concordia University student, managed to push her brother out from underneath the vehicle before her head and torso were crushed by its rear wheels. The 10-year-old suffered fractures to his skull, pelvis and shoulder.

“There was no culpable intent in what (the driver) did,” said Sgt. Guy Campeau of the collisions unit, which is still investigating the Dec. 19 accident as well as a similar one a day later in which a 76-year-old man was killed by a snow-removal truck in Riviere des Prairies.

The police will recommend a pedestrian crossing, with lights and signs indicating where vehicles must stop, be set up at the Westmount intersection, which is near a park, a library and the

YMCA, which the siblings had left just before the accident.

A coroner’s investigation is underway into both deaths, but is expected to take several months. In the second case, the pedestrian is thought to have possibly crossed on a red light.

Meanwhile, Holman-Price is considering filing a complaint with the police commission over the insensitive manner in which she says police officers dealt with her at the scene of the accident.

Despite repeated attempts to get to the ambulance in which her daughter lay, the frantic mother was brushed aside and erroneously told Jessica had been taken to the Montreal General hospital, she said.

“I was telling all the police officers I didn’t care if she was in pieces; she was my baby. I just needed to see her – to see if she died in horror, to see whether I could tell from her face whether or not she knew her brother had made it. I needed to feel that she wasn’t with me anymore,” Holman-Price said.

Campeau said that would have contravened police procedure.

“We never let the family approach the body, An accident scene is a crime scene same as a murder. What’s more, often the body is not nice to look at and can provoke an emotional crisis, and we (didn’t) have medical and social services on hand,” he said.

A family liaison officer would ordinarily have been present, but holiday scheduling meant none was available that night, he said.

Instead, Holman-Price learned of her daughter’s death only as she arrived at the Children’s Hospital, where her son was being treated, from two inexperienced officers who were charged with driving her there, but spent a number of agonizing minutes trying to locate the hospital on a map.

“I have no confidence in the police after the treatment I received,” Holman-Price said.

Source: The Gazette (Montreal)

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