Edmonton police did not cause or contribute to the death of two people in a head-on crash with a stolen truck fleeing police, an investigation has concluded.

A 64-year-old man and 62-year-old woman died in July 2017 after a truck going the wrong way on Whitemud Drive entered an off-ramp from Anthony Henday Drive and slammed into their vehicle.

Police had called off the chase once the stolen truck entered the oncoming lane, recognizing the danger to civilians had escalated dramatically, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team said in a news release Wednesday.   

“The actions of EPS officers during this incident demonstrate awareness and responsiveness to the escalating behaviour of the stolen vehicle’s driver,” ASIRT said.

“As such, it cannot be said that any EPS officer caused or contributed to the two deaths that resulted from this collision.”

On July 3, 2017, an unmarked police vehicle was following a stolen truck from a distance throughout the west end of Edmonton, the release said.

Other police vehicles joined as the truck left the city. When the truck hit a dead end on a rural road, the driver turned around and saw the police vehicles.

Police gave chase with lights and sirens on. The truck re-entered the city, heading east on Whitemud Drive when it crossed the centre line into the oncoming lane.

Pursuit ordered to stop

At that point, the ranking officer ordered all police units to stop the pursuit.

As required, the units pulled over to the side of the road, deactivating their lights and sirens, the ASIRT release said.

Meanwhile the truck continued east on Whitemud Drive and proceeded up the off-ramp from Anthony Henday Drive, still travelling in the wrong direction.

The truck hit the victims’ vehicle. The truck’s occupants of the truck fled on foot.

The 64-year-old driver of the vehicle that was hit died on scene. His passenger, a 62-year-old woman, died in hospital.

“A review of recorded police communications confirmed that immediately upon being notified that the stolen vehicle had entered the wrong lane, the ranking officer in command provided the order, ‘Terminate. Terminate,’ over the radio,” ASIRT said.

‘Beyond dispute’

GPS data from the police vehicles confirms all responded rapidly to the command to terminate.

Civilian witnesses also confirmed there were no police vehicles in pursuit of the truck at the time of the crash.

“In this case, on the basis of a significant volume of evidence, it is beyond dispute that in response to an escalating risk, EPS members immediately discontinued their pursuit in [an] attempt to mitigate those risks.

“Notwithstanding these findings, this was an unexpected and devastating shock to family and friends of the deceased.

“ASIRT’s sincere condolences go out to them as they continue to grieve.”

The four people in the truck, three men and a woman, were not hurt. Three were caught shortly after.

ASIRT investigates incidents involving police resulting in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.

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