Tragic culture led to daughter’s death: Father

Jess’ last words were, “Woah buddy, you’re getting a little close there.”

Jessica Hall

To the Editor:

Jess’ last words were, “Woah buddy, you’re getting a little close there.”

On Dec. 7, 2015, our daughter, sister, wife and friend was killed when a logging truck driving too fast for road conditions slid over the line and collided with her car. Her passenger, miraculously survived the collision and will be emotionally scarred for life.

Jess was a newlywed, a young worker and only 28. She had recently taken a travel nursing contract on the Tachie Reserve, 65 kilometres north of Fort St. James, B.C.

The communities around Fort St. James were deeply shaken by her death. Jess, who had worked there for only a short time, had become a cherished caregiver in the Tl’atz’en First Nations community.

The community had been calling on authorities for years to address unsafe logging truck driving on the main road linking their community to Fort St. James.  Everyone there knew this road was dangerous and another life was bound to be lost.

The Fort St. James RCMP sergeant who investigated the incident told us that criminal charges for unsafe driving rarely stick, but she could pursue charges under the Motor Vehicle Act.  The RCMP has, since Jess’s fatality, increased enforcement by more than 250 per cent and created a road safety committee.

It is heartbreaking to know that her death was entirely preventable.

The truck driver had a clear view of Jess’s car approaching and still chose to head into the corner too fast.  Why? we ask.

Why take the risk?

We can only conclude it’s a systemic problem of truckers pushing the limits thinking: “I am a seasoned driver, a professional, I been on this road a hundred times, I need to make a living. It won’t happen to me.

Allegedly, the Fort St. James RCMP were recently alerted to a complaint that logging truck drivers bullied another driver for driving the speed limit. This story highlights the troubling cultural that is far too familiar in the industry.

Over the last decade, more than 230 people have been killed in motor vehicle incidents while at work, according to WorkSafeBC.  Ten logging truck drivers have died this year, according to the B.C. Forest Safety Council — and this number does not account for the death of people travelling in leisure vehicles.

These motor vehicle fatalities are only preventable if we change the culture of the transport industry if we decide that it is not okay for our lives to be put at risk

We have all felt the hair on the back of our necks rise when a commercial truck is way too close to our ass end to be safe.

To save lives, we must change this culture.

We can only do so if we get to the root of the problem and stop whatever it is that keeps drivers and the industry operating dangerously and putting lives at risk.

We can only do this if we make companies accountable for their employees.

We can only do this if companies actively monitor the speed and driving of their employees.

We can only do this if the penalties for unsafe driving are significant enough to make a real difference to companies and their employees.

We can only do this if we funnel more of our police resources into enforcing safer roads for everyone.

We can only do this if government through WorksafeBC and the coroner’s office make it a priority. We can only do this if we as society say: This is not acceptable!

The coroner calls these crashes and deaths “incidents” not accidents because they are preventable.  These incidents are happening all across the North.

Let’s change the way industry uses our roads.

On Dec. 7, 2015, we lost our daughter, sister, wife and friend; no one should have to suffer the pain of such loss.

Join us in advocating for change.

Our lives depend on it.

Kevin CormackNelson, B.C.