Two Years after Fatal Crash: Is #6 bypass safe?

by Gary McHale - The Regional

June 23, 2010

Two years ago a man travelling northbound on the Hwy 6 bypass in Caledonia sustained fatal injuries from a head on collision with a woman who was travelling southbound. She is currently on trial on a charge of careless driving.

At the time of the accident I raised the question of whether such an accident could possibly have been the result of a vehicle losing control due to objects being thrown from the overpass. Recently the lawyer for Ms. Parke filed an affidavit in court using the evidence that is posted on regarding the numerous times objects have been thrown from the overpass.

The defence filed an application compelling the OPP to provide the details of problems along the by-pass route from 2003 to 2008. Officer John Barron delivered sealed packages to the court containing 1500 occurrences that the OPP had recorded - this doesn't include unreported occurrences.

When Mayor Trainer was asked whether she was aware of a report showing 1500 occurrences she stated she wasn't. As a member of the Police Service Board she said the board was unaware as well.

It is not the first time the danger of this route has been exposed. In early Aug. 2006 the Mayor stated on CHCH TV that two trucks had their windshields smashed by rocks thrown from the overpass.

On Sept. 6, 2006 Bill Jackson's opening statement in his editorial was, "two young offenders from Six Nations caught throwing debris off the train bridge over Highway 54 in Caledonia, have been processed under the Youth Criminal Justice Act." Mr. Jackson reported that a couple was driving home when their pickup truck was showered with rocks, some of them the size of a baseball.

It wasn't until June 2007 that the OPP did a press release titled, "Driver Escapes Injury - Rock Thrown From Bridge". The press release stated the following:

"On June 16, 2007 at around 8:30 a.m., two vehicles were traveling north on the Highway 6 bypass approaching the Stirling Road bridge. It is alleged that two males, described as being in their teens were seen standing on the overpass. One of them was witnessed throwing a volleyball size piece of aggregate down onto the roadway into the path of the lead vehicle. The driver of that vehicle, a 33-year-old Nanticoke man was able to swerve and miss the rock as it crashed to the roadway. The rock tumbled along the roadway, bouncing onto the hood of the second vehicle and smashing into the windshield. The female driver was showered with fragments of glass, but was not injured."

On June 17, 2007 the Regional published a letter from Doug Fleming who quotes a conversation he had with OPP officers. He asked, "I have a question. Given what happened yesterday morning could you tell me why there is not a cruiser on each of the overpass bridges?" The officer says, "That's a good question."

Doug then states, "I'd appreciate an answer. What happened could happen again and someone could get killed." The officer replies "We'd have to cross native land to get to those bridges and we can't drive there."

A year later on Aug. 1, 2008 the OPP issued another press release stating, "this past weekend, debris was reported thrown from the Stirling St., overpass on the Highway 6 bypass... Throwing debris from an overpass can cause serious injury or death, let alone substantial damage.  Anyone caught throwing debris can face serious criminal charges..." This press release was only done after we had publicly announced a Protect our Family rally at the Cayuga Police Station set for Aug. 8, 2008 because the OPP was refusing to deal with the repeated ongoing danger.

On Aug. 9, 2008 the OPP issued the following statement, "a mini van travelling south on the bypass near the south end of the Grand River Bridge had a rock shatter it’s driver’s side passenger window as another vehicle passed by.  A passenger in the mini van sustained a minor cut from the glass shattering.  Two other incidents occurred within the next two minutes with damage occurring to the driver’s side or front windshield of the vehicles in the vicinity of the fifth line and Highway 6. These incidents are not related to the overpasses.  This is a random act of mischief involving a vehicle travelling in the opposite direction throwing objects.  There have been no collisions on the bypass or serious injuries thus far relating to mischief incidents and police do not want them to get to that point where someone is killed or seriously injured. Anyone found responsible will be arrested and charged criminally with mischief endangering life."

In the current trial, while the victim's death may be unrelated to objects being throw from the overpass, it should be noted the accident did occur exactly at the overpass. What is coming out in court is not just how dangerous the bypass is in Caledonia but also how poorly the OPP investigated this accident.

While OPP officers noted the names of four people who were at the scene before the OPP they didn't take the time to interview a single one of them about what they saw. The OPP did spend thousands of dollars recreating the accident but without any testimony from these possible witnesses.

It was only after the trial started that defence got the OPP to go out and interview the four people. Their statements did not fit the OPP view.  The black box from woman's vehicle showed she had not applied her brakes before the accident thus leading the OPP to argue that she fell asleep and drove into the oncoming lane and hit the victim head-on.

One witness who was in the vehicle behind the victim lost sight of his car due to the bend in the road but her next view of his car was immediately after the accident and before both vehicles had come to a complete stop. She stated the woman's car was in the correct lane but came to rest in the wrong lane after the accident occurred.

Another witness stated they had seen people on the overpass bridge. Although Six Nations Police had control over that part of 6th Line the OPP never spoke with them to see if they had gathered any information about what happened.

The looming spectre of that 1500 reported incidents never before made public begs the question as to how dangerous this part of the bypass is and what steps the OPP have taken to ensure public safety. Both the OPP Media Relations and Insp. Periversoff were asked to respond but as of publication time no response has been received.