Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for June 11, 2013

Coroner releases report into fatal collision

The death of an 18-year-old Whitehorse woman in a head-on collision in February has been ruled accidental.

By Ashley Joannou on June 11, 2013 at 3:14 pm

The death of an 18-year-old Whitehorse woman in a head-on collision in February has been ruled accidental.

Jessica Behan was killed Feb. 25 when the 1995 Dodge Neon she was a passenger in crossed into the northbound lane and directly into the path of a Dodge Ram pickup truck.

In her report released today, the territory’s chief coroner, Kirsten MacDonald, said what caused the Neon crossing the line is still unknown.

Behan died of multiple blunt force and crush injuries. Two other people were uninjured.

The collision took place at the intersection of the Alaska Highway and Castle Drive (Pineridge) and Dawson Road (Wolf Creek) at 6:20 p.m.

In the area of the collision, “there are four lanes, two for northbound traffic and two for southbound traffic,” the report says.

“The inside lane for northbound traffic is designated for thru traffic and for turning west on Dawson road. This lane was clean, well-travelled asphalt. The outside lane for northbound traffic is designated for turning east on Castle Drive.”

At the time of the crash, it was still daylight, with no precipitation, and the weather was clear, calm and -10 C.

“There were no sight line obstructions and the two vehicles would have been in sight of one another for approximately eight to 12 seconds prior to impact,” the report says.

Investigators who reconstructed the scene found that the Neon, which was being driven by Behan’s boyfriend, was within the northbound lane at the time of the collision.

“The investigation revealed that as the two vehicles approached each other, for unknown reasons, the driver of the Dodge Neon steered into the northbound lane, resulting in an offset frontal impact,” MacDonald wrote.

There were various suggestions as to what may have led to the impact.

“Statements suggest that the driver of the Dodge Ram may have briefly crossed the yellow line prior to the collision as a result of looking down at his speedometer,” the report says.

“The driver of the Dodge Neon indicated that he saw the vehicle over the yellow line, and took evasive measures to avoid a collision.

“The Dodge Neon swerved into the northbound lane, at which point the driver of the Dodge Ram attempted to pull back towards the right into the northbound lane and the collision occurred.”

A witness suggested the Dodge Ram may have been trying to make a left hand turn, then abandoned the turn when the Neon approached. However, MacDonald said the evidence does not support that statement.

“The investigation was not able to determine through evidence at the scene and the collision reconstruction, if the Dodge Ram crossed the double solid yellow line prior to impact,” the report says.

Both drivers were relatively new behind the wheel, Macdonald said.

The Neon’s driver had a Class 5 novice driver’s licence and was about 62 per cent of the way towards completing his mandatory time.

The Dodge Ram’s driver had been issued a full class 5 licence 17 months before the collision. He had already completed his novice requirements.

Driver inexperience may have contributed to the collision, according to MacDonald.

“According to Statistics Canada, motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death of young people in Canada,” she writes.

“Transport Canada states that ‘nearly 23 per cent of motor vehicle fatalities were 15 to 24 year old in 2010 even though this age group makes up only 13 per cent of the Canadian population.’”

Speed, alcohol and/or drugs were not factors in the collision. Neither were the weather or any mechanical problems.

The coroner does point out that Behan was not wearing a seat belt and that the front passenger airbag did not deploy.

“The use of seat belts reduces the serious crash-related injuries and deaths. According to Transport Canada, ‘the seven per cent of Canadians not wearing seat belts account for almost 40 per cent of fatalities in vehicle collisions ... a properly secured seat belt offers you the best protection in head-on, side and rollover collisions by securing you in the life space of the vehicle.’

“Airbags plus seat belts provide the greatest protection for adults.”

Behan was described by those who knew her as gentle and kind. A student at Whitehorse’s Individual Learning Centre, she was on her way to graduating.

Following her death, the school spoke with the Department of Education and gave the young woman credits for the last two courses she had been working on.

CommentsAdd a comment

Alysha Vanderkley

Jun 11, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Miss you so much Jessie, every single day! Always my sister babygirl!!!! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

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