Judge says trucker was ‘sleep-driving’ when he struck RCMP cruiser
MARC BENCE/FOR METRO EDMONTON
« A reasonable person in similar circumstances would have been aware of the risk of hopping back in the truck and driving in his condition »
WETASKIWIN — A truck driver who killed a Mountie when he smashed into a lit-up RCMP cruiser on the Queen Elizabeth II Highway has been found guilty of dangerous driving causing death.
Justice Eric Macklin ruled yesterday in a Wetaskiwin courtroom that 60-year-old Marvin George Smith should have realized the risks involved in driving his five-ton delivery truck while tired.
"A reasonable person in similar circumstances would have been aware of the risk of hopping back in the truck and driving in his condition," told Macklin.
"I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that (Smith) was aware of the risk or ought to have been."
During the trial, Smith admitted he felt more tired than usual from oversleeping on the day Const. Jose Agostinho was killed while sitting in his police cruiser at the scene of a single-vehicle crash near Leduc diverting traffic from the scene.
The 45-year-old officer’s female partner was also injured when Smith crashed into the cruiser as it was parked in a northbound lane with emergency lights flashing.
Though Smith admitted pulling his truck over on the highway at Bear Hills to take a 15-minute nap on July 4, 2005, Macklin ruled the Red Deer truck driver’s sleep inertia — a condition that occurs immediately after waking up from a sleep — coupled with chronic sleep deprivation and distraction were all factors in the collision. In previous testimony, Smith admitted to working long hours and only slept about five and a half hours each night.
"At the time of the collision, and for at least 28 to 29 seconds prior to it, (Smith) was in an automatic state of non-insane automatism — he was sleep-driving," said Macklin.
As the judge read the verdict yesterday, Smith sat expressionless in the courtroom while his family members sat behind him.
Smiling as he left the courthouse with a cigarette in his mouth and his wife by his side, Smith refused to comment on the verdict.
Agostinho’s wife said she was pleased with the verdict, but refused to talk about the case, saying her comments could jeopardize Smith’s sentencing hearing, which was set over to Jan. 24, 2008.
Smith was also convicted of dangerous driving causing bodily harm for injuries the second officer suffered in the collision.