A modified off-road truck that crashed along Lac du Bois Road, killing one of the occupants, would not have passed a mechanical inspection.
A mechanic who inspected the four-wheel-drive truck after the roll-over accident on April 7, 2010, testified in B.C. Supreme Court on Monday that the vehicle would have failed an inspection due to the condition of its rear brakes and use of a smaller, after-market steering wheel.
Both rear drums were oversized, which would have affected brake performance, and the braking system was full of fluid, Kevin Walker of Westbrook Chevron told Crown prosecutor Iain Currie.
The truck was also modified with what’s commonly known as a four-inch lift, with spacers installed to give the vehicle greater road clearance for off-road use. Such modifications require motor vehicle inspection, but there was no indication the job had been inspected, Walker said.
Cody Kuch is pleading not guilty to a charge of dangerous driving causing death as a result of the accident, which occurred at or near McQueen Lake around 7 a.m. in cool spring weather. The crash killed Joanne Plante, 32, who was Kuch’s girlfriend, and raised questions at the time about the general safety of modified off-road vehicles.
Kuch and Plante’s two children did not suffer life-threatening injuries in the accident, although Kuch had to spend some time recovering in hospital. Plante, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the vehicle and it came to rest on top of her.
As the trial started on Monday, a cab driver took the stand as the first witness in the case to recall how he responded to a dispatch message about a “wipe out.” Erwin Sonnenberg came across Kuch and the two children, none of them dressed for the weather, walking toward Kamloops. The cabbie picked them up and headed back toward McQueen Lake to see if they could locate Plante.
Sonnenberg testified that Kuch seemed confused and couldn’t recall what had happened or where she was. He also told the court that there was no indication anyone in the vehicle had been drinking. The road surface was bare but it was windy with blowing snow, Sonnenberg said.
Under cross-examination by defence counsel Ken Tessovitch, the mechanic told court that the front brakes were functional and would have been more important than the rear brakes in that type of vehicle coming down a hill. While the brake fluid was leaking, the fluid level was sufficient, Walker conceded.
And Kuch wasn’t unlike many off-road vehicle owners who have their trucks modified with lifts. Those modifications are legal and there is nothing mechanically unsound about them, Walker responded to defence questioning.
The trial is expected to continue until Wednesday.