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Witnesses recall fatal accidents

Kathleen Lippa
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 31/05) - Iyukaq Qupapik, a 50-year-old Iqaluit woman, was killed instantly when a snowclearing truck backed over her as she walked past the elders centre towards North Mart on Dec. 6, 2000.

Simeonie Nowdluk was the driver of the truck that day. He told the jury the back-up alarm on his truck wasn't working. He informed his branch foreman of the problem, "I don't know how many times," he said.

A mound of snow blocked his view and he was unaware he hit anyone until he saw Qupapik under the front tires, he testified.

Witness Oleena Nowyook, who was driving down the street at the time of the incident, described in gruesome detail how Qupapik died.

"I saw her being crushed. Her head exploded. I was screaming saying, No! No!" said Nowyook. "I was driving. Trying not to panic."

No charges were laid against the City, but there was a settlement made with the family of the victim for an undisclosed amount of money.

The driver was fined $57.50 for unsafe backing of a vehicle.

Toxicology tests and statements revealed neither the victim nor the driver had been drinking alcohol or consuming drugs.

Sheila Mathewsie, age four, was killed crossing Apex Road near Happy Valley on April 12, 2003.

The truck that killed Mathewsie had many defects, including bald tires, a non-working odometer and defective brakes, the jury heard.

But an investigation revealed that even if the brakes were working well that day, there was no way the truck could have stopped in time to avoid hitting the little girl. She ran out too quickly from behind a snowbank. The truck driver didn't even have a chance to apply the brakes.

Witnesses said the truck wasn't going more than 45 km/h. Skid marks examined on the road corroborate this.

The driver, Maurice LaChance, was undergoing heart surgery in the south and could not attend the inquest.

Adamie Nookiguak, age two and a half, died instantly after being hit by a sewer truck outside his house on April 30, 2003, in Qikiqtarjuaq.

Driver Gary Metuq was working alone that day and did not see anyone near his vehicle after extracting sewage from the house and getting back into the truck.

The little boy had been standing right in front of the truck as Metuq drove on.

Donna Posterki, a nurse on the scene that day, said in a written statement she saw "a boy under the wheels," and began frantically waving her arms at the driver who had no idea he ran over the boy.

An investigation revealed a deadly blind spot at the front of the vehicle - a three-foot-high object would have to be 10 feet away before the driver could see it.

Gilbert Evans, the mechanic in Qikiqtarjuaq, is on leave in the south, but by written statement he said the vehicle was checked every 300 hours and inspections kept in a log book.

Evans said he wanted jurors to recommend fender mirrors, like the ones on school buses, and a standard pre-imposed check list.

No charges were laid against the driver or the municipality of Qikiqtarjuaq.

"Children are naturally attracted to large trucks. If they hear a big truck they want to find out what it's all about, said Greg Merrithew, an insurance adjuster.

He investigated the four incidents discussed during the inquest for Arctic Insurance.

Ann-Margaret Jeffrey (known as Margaret), age 37, was killed Sept. 2, 2003, heading to D.J. Specialties in Iqaluit after leaving the Public Health Centre with her daughter, Elizabeth. She was carrying baby Abby - now adopted out - in her amutiq.

Driver Alan Hatt, 46, was clearing sand from culverts in the ditch close to the creek.

He glanced at his watch at 12 minutes to 3 p.m. It was almost time for a coffee break, he recalled. He had some work to finish before then.

He went into the ditch. He stopped to let a cab go by on the left. He came out of the ditch, backed up in an "L or J shape." That's when he saw Elizabeth Jeffrey standing there. Margaret Jeffrey was on the ground in front of the loader.

"I've known Margaret ever since I moved to Iqaluit 12 years ago," said Hatt. "I tried to comfort her as best I could. I was quite agitated myself. I didn't see them. I didn't see where they came from."

Elizabeth Jeffrey, now 22, told the jury that as they walked to D.J. Specialties they saw the loader working.

"He was backing up. It sounded like he stopped," said Elizabeth. "Then he backed up some more."

This is when all three of them got hit.

"Mom, I think, got hit first," Elizabeth said softly never letting her emotions overwhelm her. "Mom and Abby... I couldn't see them," she said clearing her throat.

Elizabeth was not injured. Abby suffered a broken leg, but the little girl is doing alright today, Elizabeth said.