RCMP have charged 26-year-old Brandon Stucka from Lloydminster with criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death in a crash that killed three women last week.
Police believe Stucka was behind the wheel of a stolen flat-deck truck that crashed into a minivan in the eastbound lane of Highway 16 near Lloydminster early Friday morning. Three women in the minivan, all from Edmonton, were killed in the crash. Another woman in the van was airlifted to hospital.
Stucka is also charged with flight from police, possession of property obtained by crime, failure to stop at the scene of an accident, criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing bodily harm, as well as three counts of breach of undertaking.
Despite three women dying in the crash, Stucka only faces a single charge of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. The RCMP explained that the decision was made in consultation with the Crown and that the charges still represent all three victims.
RCMP defends policy on pursuits
Two officers from the Maidstone detachment had been involved in pursuit of the stolen vehicle last Friday, but were called off the chase about 35 minutes before the fatal crash.
Staff Sgt. Rob Embree explained the decision followed a national policy implemented in 2009 that does not allow high-speed pursuits in the case of stolen vehicles. He said the reality is that a stolen vehicle does not meet the threshold of risk that would outweigh the risk to the public created by a high-speed chase.
“A stolen vehicle is a serious offence, but the risk to the public is much higher and that’s why we don’t do that,” he told reporters in Regina Wednesday.
Police chases are monitored by senior officers at the command centre who make the final decision to call off the pursuit.
Embree said it wouldn’t be fair to comment on whether other measures – such as spike belts or calling for back-up to stop the stolen vehicle – could be used. He maintained the officers would have used all the resources that were available to them at that time.
A man from the area who initially called police has sparked a public outcry on Facebook calling for a change to this policy in the wake of the fatal crash.
“People are entitled to their opinions and we respect that immensely,” Embree said. “Our barometer, our baseline is the safety of the community, the safety of the public and the safety of our members, and that will always take into account the actions that we take.”
Stucka remains in custody. He is due to appear by video link in North Battleford Provincial Court Thursday morning.