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‘Good Samaritan’ cleared after fatal highway crash

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 07/12/2019 9:00 AM

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Emergency crews attend the scene of a Jan. 8, 2017 crash on the westbound lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway that killed Jeffrey Hunter, a 38-year-old stranded motorist. Michelle Trudeau, an RM of Ste Anne woman who stopped her pickup truck on the highway to help Hunter, was absolved of responsibility in a June 18 provincial court ruling.

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Emergency crews attend the scene of a Jan. 8, 2017 crash on the westbound lanes of the Trans-Canada Highway that killed Jeffrey Hunter, a 38-year-old stranded motorist. Michelle Trudeau, an RM of Ste Anne woman who stopped her pickup truck on the highway to help Hunter, was absolved of responsibility in a June 18 provincial court ruling.

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A woman from the RM of Ste Anne who stopped on the highway to help a stranded motorist has been cleared of the resulting collision that claimed the man’s life.

Judge Cynthia Devine acquitted Michelle Trudeau of parking in a manner that constitutes a hazard following a trial in Steinbach provincial court.

The Highway Traffic Act charge, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail, was levelled against Trudeau eight months after the accident, which occurred before sunrise on Jan. 8, 2017.

Devine concluded the possibility of a snow-covered shoulder, or the location of the "very intoxicated" man waving her down, may have been why Trudeau stopped her Ford F-150 in the right-hand lane of the Trans-Canada Highway, three kilometres east of Highway 12.

"Ms. Trudeau is not expected to regulate her driving behaviour to eliminate all possibilities of danger, no matter how remote," Devine wrote in a decision delivered June 18 in Winnipeg.

"She was a Good Samaritan who stopped to help her fellow man."

Jeffrey Hunter, 38, was killed instantly when the driver of a westbound semi pulling two trailers failed to spot Trudeau’s parked vehicle until a half-second before colliding with it.

Trudeau, 42 at the time, and the Quebec semi driver, then 70, were uninjured.

Court heard Hunter and three friends were returning to Winnipeg after a night of ice fishing and beer drinking on Shoal Lake, near the Ontario border.

After hitting the ditch just before 6 a.m., Hunter turned on his hazard lights, climbed out of the vehicle, and flagged down Trudeau, who was pulling a boat trailer.

Though "pitch dark" and below -20 C, visibility at the time of the crash was good, traffic was light, and the highway was bare, Devine noted.

Taillights on Trudeau’s truck and boat trailer would have been visible 200 metres away, roughly half the distance the semi needed to stop from 92 km/h, a collision reconstructionist testified.

Though the left lane was open, dash camera footage showed the semi driver swerved to the right, striking the trailer and Hunter, who RCMP said was standing near Trudeau’s passenger window.

Devine concluded the semi driver was "either distracted or fatigued," but noted lawyers didn’t say whether he ever faced charges.

"He was not paying attention. He had more than adequate time to brake and safely move to the passing lane to pass Ms. Trudeau’s vehicle," Devine wrote.

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