Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

Policeman warns school bus drivers about iPods, cellphones

CALGARY - A police officer who responded to a fatal crash between a school bus and parked gravel truck has told a judge that bus drivers shouldn't have access to iPods or cellphones.

CALGARY - A police officer who responded to a fatal crash between a school bus and parked gravel truck has told a judge that bus drivers shouldn't have access to iPods or cellphones.

Const. Robert Pughe recommended the safety measures Monday on the first day of a fatality inquiry into the death of nine-year-old Kathelynn Occena in October 2007.

Pughe said bus driver Louise Rogers said she was listening to her iPod and may have fallen asleep before the crash on a major Calgary thoroughfare. She also had two cellphones within reach, but there's no indication she used either before the crash.

"It just seemed like she had too much going on within that driver's compartment," Pughe said.

The right side of the bus was sheared off as it slid alongside the gravel truck, which was parked in an emergency lane. The bus then slammed into a light standard and came to a stop.

Rogers pleaded guilty in 2008 to careless driving and was fined $2,300, a punishment Occena's mother called a joke.

Police said at the time that they concluded "momentary inattention" caused the crash and more serious criminal charges were not warranted.

Pughe told the fatality inquiry that some students on the bus said Rogers was driving erratically and talking on her cellphone before the crash.

But he said records didn't show any cellphone use and other witnesses didn't say Rogers was speeding or driving recklessly or aggressively at the time of the crash.

The inquiry also heard that Rogers was taking thyroid medication and sleeping pills, but blood tests showed only sub-therapeutic levels of medication in her system.

Pughe testified that following the crash, Rogers seemed extremely upset and almost suicidal and he took her to a hospital psychiatric unit.

Kenneth Reed, a police collision reconstruction analyst, testified that the bus was equipped with seatbelts, but he wasn't sure whether the children were wearing them.

Rogers would have had about 130 metres, or further than a football field, to realize the gravel truck was in the emergency lane and would have had "more than sufficient time" to brake or swerve, Reed said.

There were no marks indicating that Rogers either braked or turned the wheel sharply, he added, suggesting she may have simply drifted over from the right travel lane into the truck.

"There was no indication of emergency braking or heavy steering before colliding with the gravel truck."

Frank Tosto, a lawyer representing the Third Academy private school Occena attended, asked Pughe about the condition of the broken-down gravel truck.

Pughe agreed that the truck was in "horrendous condition" and shouldn't have been on the road.

A fatality inquiry looks at ways to prevent future deaths but cannot lay blame.

Judge Terry Semenuk will make his recommendations after hearing testimony from witnesses expected to include the children on the bus and Rogers.

A recent report into the death of a road worker in Edmonton also addressed the concept of distracted driving.

Alberta Occupational Health and Safety said a witness saw the driver texting on her cellphone as she got out of the car after hitting the worker.