Court hears of erratic driving prior to fatal crash

A Nanaimo mother was tailgating and switching lanes repeatedly in the minutes before her vehicle was involved in a horrific car crash in December 2008, a witness testified Thursday.

A Nanaimo mother was tailgating and switching lanes repeatedly in the minutes before her vehicle was involved in a horrific car crash in December 2008, a witness testified Thursday.

Clare Bekkers is on trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo. Ladysmith resident Tana Liew took the stand on the third day of the trial.

Bekkers is charged with two counts of impaired driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, two counts of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

The crash happened Dec. 22, 2008 at about 4:20 p.m. in the southbound lane of the Island Highway near the Cassidy Inn. Bekkers, driving northbound on the highway in a Ford Escape SUV, crossed the centre line into oncoming traffic, triggering a multi-car collision that killed her two sons and injured her two daughters.

Liew was driving north on the Island Highway from Ladysmith when she noticed a black SUV behind her.

Liew said she was doing the speed limit in the fast lane and there was a vehicle beside her in the slow lane, keeping pace with her truck. The SUV was behind her.

“When we were moving, [the SUV] was very close to the back of my truck and then veering back and forth, switching lanes aggressively,” she said.

Liew said she didn’t feel comfortable slowing down or speeding up to allow the SUV to pass.

When a gap opened between Liew’s truck and the vehicle beside her, the black SUV moved into the slow lane and overtook Liew.

Just before the turnoff to the Cassidy Inn, Liew said the SUV “just out of the blue” made a sharp left-hand turn from the northbound slow lane into southbound traffic. She saw no skidding, sliding or brake lights.

Liew said after the crash, she stopped to help and checked on the occupants of another car before going to the SUV.

The female driver, who was still seated in the driver’s seat, appeared dazed when Liew approached and wasn’t talking much except to say “my kids” a couple times, said Liew.

Later on Thursday, Daniel Lundstrom testified that he also encountered an SUV on the Island Highway south of the crash scene.

He was travelling in the northbound fast lane with a vehicle beside him in the slow lane and the SUV was behind him. Lundstrom said he slowed down and moved to the slow lane to allow the SUV to pass.

“The SUV went by me at a rapid rate of speed,” he said.

The next time he saw the SUV, it was in the snowbank on the other side of the highway.

Cpl. Jaret Irving, an RCMP collision reconstruction analyst who testified Wednesday, said based on the severity of the damage to the SUV, he estimates Bekkers was going between 80 and 100 km/h at the time of the crash.

He said the SUV sustained significant damage in two main areas: to the front of the vehicle, which was caused by the first collision with a southbound vehicle; and along the passenger side, where the second vehicle collided with the SUV after the first vehicle’s impact had rotated it counter-clockwise about 360 degrees.

The trial continued Friday and is scheduled to finish Sept. 14, but the defence has indicated there may be a short adjournment.

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