Zopkios Brake Check on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack was seen entering the brake check with smoking brakes on Aug. 5, 2016, just before a multi-vehicle crash further down the road, but he was acquitted of criminal negligence by a judge in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on May 3, 2021. (GoogleMaps)

Zopkios Brake Check on the Coquihalla Highway (Highway 5) in British Columbia. Truck driver Roy McCormack was seen entering the brake check with smoking brakes on Aug. 5, 2016, just before a multi-vehicle crash further down the road, but he was acquitted of criminal negligence by a judge in BC Supreme Court in Chilliwack on May 3, 2021. (GoogleMaps)

Truck driver acquitted of criminal negligence in 2016 multi-vehicle Coquihalla crash

Judge finds Roy McCormack’s actions or inactions did not meet the threshold of criminal negligence

The truck driver whose brakes failed on a steep stretch of the Coquihalla in 2016 leading to a multi-vehicle crash causing several serious injuries was found not guilty of criminal negligence in BC Supreme Court on Monday (May 3).

Crown counsel argued that the fact that Roy McCormack’s did not conduct a thorough inspection of his truck and trailer after seeing his brakes smoking and before descending the steepest hill on the most dangerous highway in Canada showed a “wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives.”

McCormack went to trial charged with eight counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and one count of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle after he was involved in the crash multi-vehicle on that clear summer day in August 2016.

But Justice Peter Edelmann said that while McCormack’s actions may have been negligent, the Crown’s case did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his actions reached the level of criminal negligence.

READ MORE: Truck driver facing 8 counts of criminal negligence for 2016 Coquihalla crash

READ MORE:Truck driver charged in Coquihalla crash showed ‘wanton and reckless disregard for other people’s lives’: Crown

“There is little question the brakes were not working properly,” Edelmann read as part of his decision, pointing out that an inspector later found five out of six brakes were not functinoal.

“The central issue is whether the accused failed to check the brakes properly and if doing so was a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonably prudent person.”

McCormack was driving a truck pulling a trailer he had picked up at Roger’s Pass. As the only witness for the defence, McCormack told a confusing story with contradictory statements about what time he left, when he arrived in Kamloops, and why he falsified log book entries.

He conceded that his brakes were smoking at some point, but that it was only when he was on a steep section of highway and that when he found a better gear for descent, they stopped. But soon after leaving the Zopkios Brake Check and when he was at or near the Great Bear Snowshed he lost all braking. His truck plowed into several vehicles stopped for construction, injuring eight people, all named in the charges against him.

One of the main contentious items in the case was whether or not McCormack even stopped at the Zopkios Brake Check after seeing his smoking brakes. Truck drivers are required to stop at all brake checks, so Justice Edelmann said that if he had passed Zopkios, McCormack would have been guilty of criminal negligence.

There were three witnesses testifying to this point: McCormack himself who was unreliable and contradictory; a female driver who was passed by McCormack on the highway more than once; and a fellow truck driver named Gary Enns.

Edelmann found the female driver’s testimony to be not reliable enough to conclude for certain that McCormack did not stop at Zopkios.

As for Enns, he made a statement that the court relied upon saying that McCormack’s truck sped past him at Zopkios and it was smoking heavily. He did not testify at the trial because he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Edelmann said because of this disease that affects memory, and having no evidence before him as to the state of the witness when he made his statement, he could not give it enough weight to convict.

“It is simply not clear before me the state of Mr. Enns’ memory at the time of making the statement,” Edelmann said.

“I find the accused not guilty.”

Upon hearing the decision, McCormack thrust his hands into the air in his seat at the back of the courtroom. He stood up, lowered his mask and thanked the judge.

In an email to The Progress the day after the verdict, McCormack said he was happy to be acquitted, adding that there is only so much a driver can do in pre-trip inspections.

“I know this was a terrible accident probably one of the worst things that has ever happened to me in my life,” he wrote in part. “I did what I supposed to do and stopped at that the brake check as required unfortunately it wasn’t enough. I’m very sorry to the people that were injured in this accident I wish it never happened. The judge’s decision has restored my belief in the justice system.”


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
editor@theprogress.com

@TheProgress
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ripy Jubbal of Abbotsford has received a 30-month jail sentence for the fraudulent use of credit cards and credit card data. (Facebook photo)
Abbotsford woman sentenced for $80K in fraudulent credit card purchases

Ripy Jubbal and spouse used identities of 19 different victims, court hears

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. (File photo)
UPDATE: 2 cougars killed following attack in Harrison Mills

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

....
Abbotsford graphic designer pitches Flyers rebrand for AHL team

Alex Svarez suggests new affiliate team turns back the clock and brings back Flyers moniker

Mike Haire, a former vice-principal at W. A. Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford, began court proceedings on Monday, May 3 in New Westminster for two child pornography offences.
Trial paused for former Abbotsford vice-principal charged with child porn

Judge reserves decision on admissibility of evidence against Mike Haire

Abbotsford’s Jake Virtanen is now under investigation from the Vancouver Police Department following sexual misconduct allegations. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Vancouver police investigating sexual misconduct claims against Canucks’ Jake Virtanen

Abbotsford native remains on leave with the Vancouver Canucks following recent allegations

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Meghan Gilley, a 35-year-old emergency room doctor and new mom was vaccinated from COVID-19 in January, while she was pregnant. She’s encouraging others to do the same. (Submitted)
‘The best decision’: B.C. mom encourages other pregnant women to get COVID-19 shot

Meghan Gilley, 35, delivered a healthy baby after being vaccinated against the virus while pregnant

Former Vernon Panthers football standout Ben Hladik of the UBC Thunderbirds (top, in a game against the Manitoba Bisons, <ins>making one of his 38 Canada West solo tackles in 2019</ins>), was chosen in Tuesday’s 2021 Canadian Football League draft. (Rich Lam - UBC Thunderbirds photo)
B.C. Lions call on Vernon standout in CFL draft

Canadian Football League club selects former VSS Panthers star Ben Hladik in third round of league draft

Most Read