A recently released fatality inquiry report has cleared RCMP officers of fault in the 2005 death of 21-year-old Sarah Jouppi, who died after a police chase ended in a fiery crash.

Jouppi was a passenger in a vehicle police discovered was stolen after an officer spotted it leaving a known drug house in Vegreville around 4:30 a.m. on Oct. 10, 2005.

An RCMP corporal attempted to pull over the vehicle as it proceeded eastbound on Highway 16, though the driver accelerated in an attempt to evade the officer.

The driver, later identified as Joseph Edward Openshaw, sped between 140 and 160 kilometres per hour and turned south on Highway 36, though he quickly pulled a sharp U-turn, nearly colliding with the pursuing officer, who swerved into a ditch.

Though the officer quickly recovered and turned around, he lost sight of the fleeing vehicle.
He turned back on to Highway 16 and spotted the suspect vehicle speeding east in the westbound lanes, though he slowed and let it speed ahead.

Soon after, he discovered a vehicle engulfed in flames, that had been hit by the stolen vehicle. The officer pulled the driver from the burning vehicle and dragged him to safety.

About 110 metres away, the suspect vehicle was found turned on its side. Openshaw escaped the wreck, as did a man who was sitting in the back seat.

Jouppi was found belted inside the vehicle. Severe head trauma sustained in the crash killed her instantly.

A judge ruled her death was a direct result of Openshaw’s criminal negligence, and that the RCMP officer followed proper pursuit policies.

It was determined Openshaw was on a multi-day crack binge at the time of the crash.
He was sentenced to 16 years in jail.