Crash aftermath leaves school in mourning

Deana Stokes Sullivan
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Two of three people killed in horrific crash were about to graduate from high school

A pile of grey twisted metal and loose debris being loaded onto a flatbed truck Monday morning was all that was left of a Chevrolet Malibu which crashed into a utility pole on Freshwater Road in St. John's around 1:15 a.m. Monday, killing all three occupants.

The Eastern School District confirmed Monday afternoon two of the people in the vehicle were students of Prince of Wales Collegiate (PWC).

What remains of a Chevrolet Malibu is removed from the scene of an accident which claimed three lives in the early morning hours of Monday. An adult male and two teenagers died when the car hit a tree and then a utility pole on Freshwater Road just east o

A pile of grey twisted metal and loose debris being loaded onto a flatbed truck Monday morning was all that was left of a Chevrolet Malibu which crashed into a utility pole on Freshwater Road in St. John's around 1:15 a.m. Monday, killing all three occupants.

The Eastern School District confirmed Monday afternoon two of the people in the vehicle were students of Prince of Wales Collegiate (PWC).

Mary Tucker, the board's communications manager, said exams went ahead Monday as scheduled, but grief counsellors were onsite and will be at the school again today to help students cope with the loss.

The two students, a 17-year-old female and an 18-year-old male, were pronounced dead at the crash scene, according to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary.

A 35-year-old man was transported to hospital and was later pronounced dead.

The school's website was updated Monday afternoon to include a message about the tragic incident.

"The PWC community has suffered the tragic loss of two of our Level 3 students in a terrible car accident. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to family and friends. At this time, we have no details of funeral arrangements," the message reads.

The school says it is sensitive to students who may be grief-stricken. "Any student who feels unable to write a public examination for this reason should see the principal to make arrangements for an August supplementary."

RNC media relations officer Const. Suzanne FitzGerald said investigators are trying to determine who was driving the car and where each person was sitting.

She confirmed the car was speeding and was initially being pursued by an RNC patrol car, but FitzGerald said the officer called off the pursuit in the interest of public safety before the car crashed.

She told reporters during a media briefing the officer was travelling west on Kenmount Road in the area of Kelsey Drive when he observed the vehicle travelling east "at an extremely high rate of speed."

FitzGerald said the veteran officer "confirmed and locked the speeding vehicle on radar at 147 kms an hour in a 50-km zone."

She said he activated his emergency lights and siren and attempted to stop the vehicle, but the car continued speeding eastbound.

"Once the officer observed the speeding vehicle run a red light and also - based obviously on the speed and erratic driving - the officer decided in the interest of public safety to discontinue pursuing the speeding vehicle."

FitzGerald said shortly after the officer advised the RNC communications centre of his decision, the car collided with a pole on Freshwater Road, just east of Crosbie Road.

Next of kin have been notified, but FitzGerald said Monday police wouldn't provide any information that could potentially identify the deceased. She also wouldn't say what the relationship was between the teens and the 35-year-old man.

Although the RNC says the officer was not pursuing the vehicle when it crashed, it has asked the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) to conduct an independent investigation of the incident and the police officer's actions.

FitzGerald said it's RNC policy to call in an external agency to conduct an independent investigation in such circumstances.

The OPP will review the details, including the officer's notes and tapes from the RNC communications centre.

FitzGerald said, to the best of her knowledge, the red light the vehicle ran was near the Thorburn Road access, just east of the overpass, but she couldn't say where the chase was called off.

That will also be part of the OPP investigation.

FitzGerald said there was no drag racing involved because there were no vehicles nearby at the time.

She said a tree just west of the utility pole the car hit appears to be damaged, which suggests the car veered off the road, up onto the front lawn of a business, struck the tree and then collided head on with the power pole.

"The power lines were actually suspending the pole itself," FitzGerald said.

Newfoundland Power had to be called out, she said, not only to repair the damage, but to make the scene safe for officers, emergency personnel and accident investigators.

FitzGerald said the officer who pursued the car is still on the job.

"He's an exceptional officer," she said.

His car has been impounded, which FitzGerald said is standard procedure to obtain information from the vehicle, including analyzing the radar detector and inspecting the car to ensure it was safe and operable at the time of the incident.

The RNC is asking anyone who witnessed the accident or anyone who has video from businesses in the area to call 729-8000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-722-TIPS.

dss@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Prince of Wales Collegiate, Ontario Provincial Police, Newfoundland Power Crime Stoppers

Geographic location: Freshwater Road, St. John's, Kenmount Road Crosbie Road Thorburn Road

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