Black ice blamed for fatal car crash

An expert witness for the defence believes black ice triggered a fatal car crash three years ago.

An expert witness for the defence believes black ice caused a Nanaimo mother’s car to veer into oncoming traffic, triggering a fatal car crash three years ago.

Clare Bekkers, 38, is facing impaired and dangerous driving charges following a collision on the Island Highway near the Cassidy Inn Dec. 22, 2008 that killed her two sons and injured her two daughters.

Geoff Evans, a civil engineer with a background in forensic accident analysis, was called by the defence to give his opinion of what happened leading up to the car crash.

“I think it was just an unlucky situation that Mrs. Bekkers got herself into,” he said.

Evans said several factors were present the day of the crash that he believes created a “perfect storm” for development of what he called the “flash freeze” phenomenon.

The air temperature for the 11 days prior to the accident was below freezing and windchill is recorded for eight of those 11 days, which would have caused the freezing to move into the pavement structure, said Evans.

A road supervisor recorded the air temperature in the area of the crash as just above freezing around 4 p.m. that day, he said, and the road surface temperature at –1 C.

The left-hand curve on which Bekkers lost control is banked so the water would run towards the centre of the highway, Evans added, and the sun was setting at the time of the crash, which could mean a sudden drop in air temperature as the sun dips behind the mountain and trees.

Evans believes Bekkers’s left front tire may have caught a patch of ice when she decided to move her vehicle, which he determined to be front-wheel drive with no anti-lock braking system, from the slow lane to the fast lane in the curve.

He believes the tire that caught the ice then lost traction and acted as a fulcrum point to rotate the vehicle counter-clockwise, as it was already moving in that direction with the lane change, while the right front tire, which still had traction and half the vehicle’s power, propelled the car counter-clockwise into oncoming traffic.

Evans said if another driver found themselves in the exact same circumstances, the same thing could have happened and the same loss of control can occur whether a person is going 15 km/hr or 50 km/hr.

“When you hit black ice, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re doing 15 or 50,” he said. “The loss of steering is immediate.”

Cross-examination of Evans continued Wednesday, when final submissions from Crown and defence lawyers were originally expected.