By Jack Wilson, Red Deer Advocate
A gravel truck driver involved in a school bus accident that killed a Rimbey girl has been convicted of careless driving and driving at an unreasonable rate of speed.
Peter Oliver Jorgensen, 28, of Bluffton, was fined $2,000 for careless driving by Judge John Holmes in Rimbey provincial court Aug. 26. There was no driving suspension imposed.
Holmes said an ordinary prudent driver would have started applying his breaks immediately once he saw red lights ahead of him in the fog, let alone a driver of a heavy vehicle. Jorgensen was driving an empty gravel truck towing a trailer.
Jorgensen testified he didn’t give any thought to the fact that a school bus may have been on Highway 53 on April 8, 2008, the day at 8:14 a.m. he plowed his empty gravel truck into an SUV parked behind the bus and then the bus itself.
“At the time it never occurred to him that a school bus would be on the road,” said Crown prosecutor Jason Neustaeter.
Neustaeter said Jorgensen’s own testimony indicated he wasn’t paying attention to his speed and he never thought a school bus would be on the road, even though he knew children were picked up between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.
Jennifer Noble, 17, of Rimbey, was killed and two other students were injured in the collision.
Jorgensen told court he knew school buses made stops on the road since he grew up not far from the spot of the crash and he had taken school buses during his school years.
Cpl. Gord Baker, an RCMP traffic collision reconstruction specialist, told court Jorgensen was going a minimum of 88 km/h when his skid marks started on April 8, 2008 about 8:14 a.m. on a foggy road two kilometres east of the intersection of Highway 53 and 20.
Baker said Jorgensen would have needed to proceed at 69 km/h to have stopped at the SUV. Contributing to the crash included the weather, the size and weight of the vehicle Jorgensen was driving, which was an empty Kenworth tractor and trailer, and traffic in the area on a school morning.
He also said the position of the school bus parked just inside the shoulder line was a factor. “Parking a bus in that position about the middle of the lane is unsafe.”
Wolf Creek School District bus driver, Ron Adams, 62, of Rimbey, testified he had no instructions from the district to pick up Carey Anderson’s children in their driveway.
Anderson testified he talked to Adams about the driver avoiding the stop at his driveway if weather conditions were poor. “We just live six to eight minutes from the school so we could take them.
Adams will stand trial in October after he was charged under the Traffic Safety Act with failing to load and unload at safe times.
Const. Bill Coulthard of Rimbey RCMP, who was the first officer on the crash scene, said Jorgensen had a clean driving record.
“He is a salt of the earth,” said the officer while wiping away tears when asked to describe the reputation of the accused. Coulthard knew Jorgensen as a young boy since he had served 25 years in the community.