Second driver charged one year after Serpentine fatality

Vehicles never made contact prior to victim's car crashing into Serpentine River.

RCMP divers recover vehicle.

RCMP divers recover vehicle.

One year to the day after a Highway 99 crash that killed a young Vancouver woman, police have announced a charge against the owner of a second vehicle involved in the incident.

“While the investigation into this incident by the RCMP’s Deas Island Traffic Services Unit confirmed the involvement of a second vehicle in the incident, police confirm that there is no evidence to suggest that a collision between the two vehicles took place,” Cpl. Aaron Sproule said in a news release Tuesday.

“A Motor Vehicle Act charge of ‘change lanes unsafely’ has been laid against the registered owner of a vehicle alleged to have contributed to the series of events leading up to the tragic death of a Vancouver woman one year ago today.”

Police did not release the name of the person charged. According to an ICBC list of penalties, the charge comes with a $109 fine.

The victim – whom police have never publicly identified, at her family’s request – died March 12, nearly two weeks after the Honda she was driving crashed through a railing of the Serpentine River Bridge and plunged into the river.

The driver, a woman in her 20s, was submerged for 90 minutes. Resuscitated and airlifted to hospital, she succumbed 12 days later.

Police announced later that month that charges had been recommended against a second driver. Speed, drugs and alcohol were ruled out as contributing factors early in the investigation.

The crash prompted Ministry of Transportation engineers to review how the guard rail performed. Last week, staff released their report, advising that the 1961-era bridge will be reinforced with more concrete guard rails in place of the cast aluminum railings.

As well, the ministry announced other older bridges with heavy traffic are being examined to see if their railings warrant upgrading.

The transportation critic for the Green Party of BC, Don Pitcairn, said Wednesday that the engineering study proves the “brittle” aluminum guardrails on the bridge were to blame for the vehicle plunging into the river.

In a release – headlined “Liberal’s failures lead to deadly guardrail failure” – Pitcairn said he uncovered signs of damage and neglect when he inspected “a handful of aluminum guardrail bridges on Highway 17 in Delta and on Highway 99 in Surrey” last weekend.

The South Surrey resident said “potentially deadly aluminum guardrails” should be replaced with concrete barriers immediately.

“As to how many more bridges across B.C. have these, when they will be replaced with modern concrete barriers and how much it will cost are questions that still need to be answered by Christy Clark’s Liberal party,” Pitcairn added.

– with files from Dan Ferguson