The dump truck involved in a deadly 2011 head-on collision in Langley was “barrelling” by cars and passed at least one other vehicle before crossing a double-yellow line and smashing into South Surrey resident Jim Neiss, according to an eyewitness.
Details from the minutes leading up to the fatality were recalled by Robert Blair in Surrey Provincial Court Tuesday.
Glen Edwards Theriault is on trial, charged with dangerous driving causing death in connection with the collision.
Blair said he was driving ahead of the dump truck as it headed westbound on 16 Avenue from 264 Street to the scene of the collision, just past 200 Street, on Jan. 18, 2011. He saw the head-on crash between Neiss’s Ford Explorer and the Sterling truck.
According to Blair – a California resident who was staying with his girlfriend in Aldergrove at the time – the dump truck had already passed one car, just before Campbell Valley Park, before attempting to pass another car and Blair’s 2004 Dodge Magnum shortly after the intersection of 200 Street and 16 Avenue.
Blair told the court that while looking in his rear-view mirror, he saw the dump truck pass a small white car directly behind him before coming up beside him in the eastbound lane.
“I thought, my gosh, someone is passing. My gosh, it’s the dump truck. And I’ll say that ‘gosh’ wasn’t the word in my mind,” he said, noting that the dump truck was in the eastbound lane driving west for approximately a minute.
Theriault is alleged to have crossed a double-yellow line to pass the two cars, but the manoeuvre was never completed. Instead, the dump truck slammed into Neiss’ pickup as it travelled eastbound over a “blind hill” on the busy thoroughfare, Blair said.
The force of the impact with the dump truck compressed the SUV’s front section into less than half its width.
“It was all very split-second. I saw dump truck, headlights and at that point, I knew we were all in trouble,” Blair said. “The trucks hit head-on. Both had began moving to the south shoulder of the road.”
Neiss – a bus driver with the Langley School District since 2003 – had been on his way to work at the time.
Following the collision, Blair said the vehicle directly behind him drove off, while he and fellow witness Terrence Penner stopped and called 911.
Blair described seeing sparks flying from a power line that had been hit, and Neiss’s vehicle “squashed,” with the front pushed into the box.
During cross-examination by defence, Blair confirmed that he had not mentioned seeing the dump truck passing the first car in interviews with police, ICBC and Crown counsel.
Neiss’s widow, Brenda Michie, listened to the testimony surrounded by her sister, Maureen McMillan, and her husband’s former co-workers, Langley School District bus drivers Dale Challice, Paul Griffin and Halimah Simon.
Outside court, Challice told Peace Arch News he is still grieving the loss of his friend, but he has sympathy for Theriault.
“No one wakes up in the morning thinking they’re going to kill someone. That’s been with him since that day,” he said. “At first, we all wanted revenge, but now…”