There’s a scenario playing out far too frequently on Lower Mainland roads; individuals are being injured or killed in vehicle and pedestrian collisions, and the drivers responsible are fleeing the scene.
Police investigating such incidents say a driver’s motivation to duck responsibility for such tragedies can run the gamut – from straight-out panic at the reality of what just occurred, to fear it will be discovered they were driving illegally at the time, perhaps even drunk.
But, regardless of the so-called logic, no reason is good enough to walk away from a tragedy that has changed lives forever.
“We’re seeing it occur far too frequently, where drivers are not taking responsibility for their actions and are fleeing scenes for one reason or another when people are struck or injured or killed,” Sgt. Peter Thiessen, spokesman for the Lower Mainland District Regional Police Service, said in a recent interview.
“Many times, the drivers, they will panic and many times, they’re panicking for a reason.
“But none of it’s justifiable. For someone to flee and leave someone dying in the road, I think, is unconscionable.”
Thiessen didn’t have the latest statistics for the Lower Mainland, but citizens on the Semiahmoo Peninsula will recall three such tragedies that have occurred in White Rock alone since 2008.
Last Thursday marked the one-year anniversary of a hit-and-run collision that killed a 77-year-old White Rock woman as she walked along Marine Drive. (Police have never released the victim’s identity, at the request of family.)
On July 18, it will have been two months since 56-year-old Marilyn Laursen was struck and killed on Johnston Road at Thrift Avenue, by a driver who had just avoided a police stop.
Next month, on Aug. 29, it will be three years since two White Rock men were left for dead by a driver speeding along North Bluff Road. David Demke and Matt Hibbs suffered catastrophic injuries that night, and had to undergo extensive rehabilitation on their road to recovery.
In the two older cases, tips dried up long ago. Without anything new to go on, police are simply monitoring the files on an annual basis, Sgt. Roland Pierschke said.
The investigations aren’t closed, they’re simply stagnant.
“It’s never closed,” Pierschke said.
“Sometimes, it can take years.”
Thiessen said more often than not, such drivers do not come forward on their own accord – despite repeated appeals from police, the public and devastated family members for them to do the right thing.
“They will simply wait and see if the police will arrive on their doorstep,” he said.
In the Laursen case, police know who owns the car recovered in connection with the tragedy. That person has spoken to police and has “provided the information they feel is relevant,” Thiessen said.
He hesitated to say police were any closer to an arrest.
“I wouldn’t want to phrase it quite that way. I’d say we’re hopeful we’re going to have a positive resolution to the investigation and we’re trying to move forward as quickly as we can, but we’re having some challenges.”
While he wouldn’t share those challenges – or if police had notched any successes in the investigation to date – Thiessen acknowledged the lack of such disclosure has led some citizens to wonder if police have focused their efforts elsewhere.
“Many times, I know it appears to the public that nothing’s happening, but you can assure your readers and assure the community that there’s still significant resources on it,” Thiessen said. “It’s not a file that is just sitting on a desk and there’s nothing happening with it.”
Those with information that could help identify drivers should call 778-593-3600.