SD&G OPP cleared in driver’s death near Long Sault

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

LONG SAULT – The director of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has cleared three SD&G OPP officers for their involvement in a chase this summer where a man died short after his arrest.

Joseph Martino found no reasonable grounds to believe the trio committed a criminal offence after a 66-year-old man from Long Sault died while being arrested.

The driver had sped away after failing a roadside Breathalyzer test on the westbound off-ramp of Highway 401 at Moulinette Road on July 22, 2022.

While trying to flee, one of the officers had his hand caught in the driver’s door handle of the Chevy Silverado and was dragged a short distance before he could free himself.

Dispatch recordings submitted for the investigation reveal the officer had to “step on the running board (of the truck) to try and get my hand out. He (complainant) swerved towards the ditch and threw me into the ditch.”

The chase involving three OPP cruisers and went along County Road 29, County Road 12 and Eamon Road where speeds reached 120 to 180 kilometers an hour at times, before it was called off.

The investigation found the fleeing pickup truck went off into a corn field when it came to the T intersection of Eamon Road and Gravel Pit Road. Crash data showed the man was wearing his seat belt and was travelling 97 kilometers an hour 2.5 seconds before the collision. The truck came to rest upright in the field slightly north of the intersection.

One of the cruisers in the chase, who didn’t see the truck, also flew through the intersection and into the corn field at 120 kilometers an hour, the report shows. The officer made a U-turn back to Gravel Pit Road and continued to the man’s home.

“There was nothing in the collision investigation to indicate the complainant’s collision was anything other than a single motor vehicle collision. It would appear the complainant lost control of his truck, and entered and struck the ditch due to excessive speed,” Martino wrote.

Not finding the man at his home, two officers headed back to the intersection where the truck had been found in the field by the third officer.

Martino says the man, who was sitting in the truck with his seat belt on, refused commands from officers to get out of the truck and was pulled from the vehicle where he fell on the ground. He was then handcuffed.

“Within moments of his arrest, the complainant began to struggle with his breathing. He was uncuffed and placed in the recovery position by the officers. Shortly thereafter, the complainant became unresponsive and the officers began to administer CPR. An AED (defibrillator) was deployed by the officers, which directed that no shock be administered. CPR was continued until the arrival of paramedics at the scene at about 1:05 p.m.

Despite the resuscitative efforts of the first responders, the complainant was declared deceased at the scene at 1:19 p.m.,” Martino wrote.

As of the writing of the SIU report on Nov. 18, there was no cause of death and no blood-alcohol readings as the autopsy and toxicology reports were still pending.

A search of the pickup found an “unopened 15-pack of Budweiser beer on the front passenger floor and numerous empty bottles of Blue Light beer in the back of the truck.”

“On my assessment of the evidence, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that any of the subject officials committed a criminal offence in connection with the complainant’s death,” he said.

The case is now closed.