News Local

Truck driver charged in fatal Port Hope crash

By PETE FISHER, Northumberland Today

Baljinder Singh, 56, of Brampton, seen here after the crash last August, has been charged with two counts of dangerous driving dausing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing death. Two people were killed in the collision on Highway 401 at Port Hope, Ont. around 10 p.m. on August 3, 2017. Pete Fisher Photography

Baljinder Singh, 56, of Brampton, seen here after the crash last August, has been charged with two counts of dangerous driving dausing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing death. Two people were killed in the collision on Highway 401 at Port Hope, Ont. around 10 p.m. on August 3, 2017. Pete Fisher Photography

TORONTO - A lifetime of dreams was taken from Nicole McGee as she spoke of her life with Todd Gardiner, who along with his cousin Michael Glazier, was killed in Port Hope following a horrific crash earlier this year.

Gardiner, 26, who was from Newcastle and Glazier, who was 35 and from Guelph, were killed in a crash on Highway 401 in Port Hope on Aug. 3 at approximately 10 p.m.

McGee spoke at a press conference in Toronto on Friday, which was held by the Ontario Provincial Police, who announced charges stemming from three separate commercial transport truck collisions that claimed the lives of six people, including a 14-year-old boy, last summer. Two of the collisions occurred on Highway 401, the one near Port Hope and the other in Chatham Kent on July 30. The third collision occurred on Highway 48 in the Town of Georgina on July 27.

The common factor in all three collisions was a transport truck traveling on a highway and crashing into the back of traffic that was stopped or had slowed due to road construction or a collision ahead, the OPP stated.

OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes said Baljinder Singh, 56, of Brampton, was driving a transport truck coming up to traffic that had slowed to a stop because of construction on Highway 401 eastbound at Port Hope.

Singh "reportedly failed to slow down as he approached this section of the highway. His truck came crashing into the end of the traffic queue resulting in the cab of the truck and two passengers becoming fully engulfed in flames," Hawkes said.

Singh has been charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death and two counts criminal negligence causing death. He will appear in Cobourg Court on Nov. 29.

The cousins were killed as they were traveling to a family golf tournament for the weekend.

Wearing a picture of her fiancé and his cousin, McGee, along with members of both families, were in attendance at the press conference. "If you're not driving carefully - you shouldn't be driving," she said.

"You need to be driving and paying attention to what you're doing all the time. And that goes for any driver on the road. For myself, when I drive, I'm alert what I'm doing but I'm also alert of what people around me are doing."

McGee spoke about how she and her boyfriend, who was a carpenter, were living together and saving for a house. His cousin was also planning his wedding with his fiancé April McGauley.

"We were all pushing forward towards our future and everything was pretty much planned out and now, everything is gone," she said.

"So when they talk about who was killed, yes, Mike and Todd were killed, but along with them, so were we."

With Gardiner, family was everything and McGee found out after the collision that he had planned to propose to her on Christmas, which was his mother's birthday.

The cousins were headed to a family golf tournament and were really excited about it.

"Happy and fun, that's who they were. They wanted to make sure everyone around them was happy and laughing all the time."

McGee worked with children for years, but since the collision, "I sit at home or I'm over at the family's house. We don't have anything else to do. You're basically walking around with no purpose in life."

The collisions resulted in double fatalities that together claimed the lives of four men, one woman and a youth who were all occupants in vehicles at the end of the traffic queue.

Several other people were also seriously hurt in the collisions.

A press release said the details mirror a fourth fatal collision that occurred on May 11 on Highway 401 near Kingston. While the OPP has already laid and published charges stemming from the incident, Hawkes acknowledged the deaths of the three men and one woman, all occupants in one vehicle, who died when their vehicle, too, was struck from behind by a transport truck that failed to stop in a construction zone.

"This series of horrific collisions is driver inattention at its worst and the most tragic reminder in recent history of the tremendous toll on the lives of innocent citizens when commercial transport truck drivers are not paying full attention to the road. We are putting drivers on notice that the OPP will pursue every investigative avenue following serious collisions and hold at-fault drivers accountable to the full extent of the law," said Hawkes.

The sister of a 51-year-old woman who was killed in a similar transport truck-related crash in 2014 spoke to the crowd about how her loss has impacted her. The transport truck driver in the incident was recently sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of criminal negligence causing death.

Hawkes said the OPP is looking into a strategy using aircraft to allow them to have a view from above at transports and how they are driving.

"Even to look into a transport truck to see if they are distracted by texting, the angle is very, very poor so the strategy is coming at it from a different angle." he said. "Let's use some of our technology from the air."

Hawkes also acknowledged the many safe commercial transport truck drivers and other road safety advocates that help keep Ontario highways safe.

But for the others that are driving inattentively, the ones who are distracted, "they're driving in essence a time bomb that is driving down the highway."

Pfisher@postmedia.com

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