Coroner releases report into deadly logging truck crash 

Victim's family pursues legal action

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD / WWW.MEDIA-CENTRE.CA - fatal rollover A B.C. Coroner's investigation found that a logging truck that rolled over on Highway 99 in the fall of 2013, killing motorcyclist Hugh Craig Roberts, had been speeding and was 3,750 kilograms over the allowable weight.
  • file photo by david buzzard / www.media-centre.ca
  • fatal rollover A B.C. Coroner's investigation found that a logging truck that rolled over on Highway 99 in the fall of 2013, killing motorcyclist Hugh Craig Roberts, had been speeding and was 3,750 kilograms over the allowable weight.

The BC Coroners Service has ruled the death of a motorcyclist who was killed in a logging truck incident in Whistler in fall 2013 was accidental.

But the investigation also found that the logging truck was going 32 kilometres per hour over the speed limit and was 3,570 kilograms overweight.

Hugh Craig Roberts, 65, was riding his motorcycle northbound on Highway 99 on the afternoon of Oct. 19, 2013, when a southbound logging truck lost its load into the northbound lanes. The accident occurred near the intersection of Highway 99 and Nordic Way.

Prepared by coroner Chico Newell, the report listed the immediate cause of death as "multiple blunt force trauma" from the force of the spilled logs with time of death given as the time of the accident, 2:25 p.m.

According to the report, the logging truck was travelling southbound at a calculated speed of 92 km/h at the time of the incident. It was approximately 90-metres north of the T-intersection and Nordic Drive when the accident occurred. The speed limit in that section of the highway is 60km/hr.

As the truck began to negotiate the right hand curve, it began to lean heavily to the left. According to the report, witnesses reported that logs began to shift and some began to roll off the top of the trailer.

"A northbound white 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer was struck on the driver's side at the rear wheel by a log and on the passenger's side by a broken log load cable wrapper," said the report. "The logging truck then went over onto its side.

"The load of logs spilled onto the roadway. Mr. Roberts was struck and pinned amongst the logs."

The coroner's investigation also found that the logging truck was over its allowable vehicle weight.

"Investigation revealed the logging truck and trailer (total weight 18,730 kg) and the load of logs (total weight 44,540 kg) was 3,570 kg over the allowable gross vehicle weight (59,700 kg)," stated the findings.

The coroner's report ruled out driver fatigue for the logging truck hauler as a factor, and said a post-mortem toxicology "revealed no evidence of alcohol or illicit drugs," in the victim's system.

"I find that Hugh Craig Roberts died in Whistler on October 19, 2013, of multiple blunt force trauma. I classify this death as accidental and make no recommendations," concluded Newell.

In February 2017, the driver of the logging truck, Richard Graham Morgan, who has more than 20 years experience driving this type of vehicle, was convicted of one count of driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention and was ordered to pay $1,150.

Morgan is now named in a civil case that is scheduled to be heard by the B.C. Supreme Court on Feb. 12, 2019.

The case was brought forward by Roberts' wife, Mary Jackson Roberts, and son, Colin Hugh Roberts. The plaintiff's Statement of Claim, filed September 2015, alleges that the death has led to past and future loss of financial support as well as "loss of love, care guidance and companionship of their Husband and Father, respectively."

In their statement, the plaintiffs also named the following as defendants: Mercado Capital Corporation (the "owner and lessor" of the tractor Morgan was driving), Pat Morgan Contracting LTD. ("the employer of the defendant Richard Graham Morgan"), and Patrick Leo Morgan ("the owner of Pat Morgan Contracting LTD."), as well as ABC Company #1, and John Doe #1-4, unspecified people and companies who owned, operated or worked for the companies that shipped and loaded the logs onto the truck.

In a Response to Civil Claim filed by Morgan and Mercado, the defendants allege that Roberts "failed to take reasonable or proper or any precaution to avoid the collision" and claim that Colin Hugh Roberts is "not entitled to recover under any heads of damages" because he had lived independently of the deceased for "many years."

Morgan and Mercado Capital also assign blame to the other defendants named in the plaintiff's civil claim—Pat Morgan Contracting LTD, Patrick Leo Morgan, ABC Company#1 and John Doe #1 through 4.

"The collision and any alleged injury, loss, damage or expense resulting thereby occurred without negligence on the part of (Morgan and Mercado Capital), and occurred solely as a result of, or was contributed to by, the negligence of the Deceased and the defendants, Pat Morgan Contracting LTD., Patrick Leo Morgan, ABC Company, John Doe #1, John Doe #2, John Doe #3 and John Doe #4, and these defendants are under no liability to the plaintiffs therefore," reads the Response.

(In June 2017, the plaintiffs discontinued legal proceedings against ABC Company#1 and John Doe #1-4.)

The logging truck accident that killed Roberts, as well as another logging truck accident that took place in the Cheakamus Canyon earlier that same month (no one was seriously injured), sparked discussion about the safety of logging trucks in Sea to Sky country and beyond.

The coroner's report concluded that the logging-truck industry had made improvements in terms of safety since the 2013 accident.

"Commercial Vehicle Safety and Enforcement undertook a number of meaningful initiatives to improve logging truck safety since Mr. Roberts' death," said the report.

"Inspections have been increased and a Trucking Advisory Group (TAG) was struck. More and better data is also now being kept with respect to logging truck incidents. Based on the changes made since Mr. Roberts' death, I have not found it necessary to make recommendations."

TAG was developed as a response to the Roberts accident, as well as a number of other rollovers around the province, said Rob Moonen, CEO of the BC Forest Safety Council (BCFSC), the organization responsible for the TAG.

"TAG was essentially born out of ... the number of incidents we were seeing in 2013," said Moonen.

"During that time, there was an unusually high cluster of rollovers—I think it was five—and we as a health and safety association essentially said to industry, 'We've got a high number of rollovers here. It's our recommendation that we get together a group and look at what's causing these, and what we can do to address these issues.'"

One of TAG's early recommendations was to develop a safety workshop for drivers. Called "Anatomy of a Rollover," the workshops focus on the dynamics of a rollover and ways to prevent them, and Moonen said they have been popular.

He added that there are now fewer rollovers than in the years leading up to 2013, though he acknowledges that a true accounting of all rollovers is challenging, as companies may choose not to report rollovers that take place on private land.

"One of the things we look to is the number of high-profile roll-overs," said Moonen. "In 2013, we had 51 in the province, and in 2017 that number is 15."

The goal, he said, is to bring that number to zero.

Lawyers for the defense and plaintiffs were not available to comment by deadline.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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