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RCMP officer charged in northern Alberta highway death pleads not guilty

Const. Michelle Phillips ran over Tracy Janvier, 41, at 'extremely high rate of speed'

Pic 1 Tracy Janvier

Tracy Janvier was hit by a car while walking on a highway south of Fort McMurray in the early hours of Aug. 21, 2016. He was then struck by an RCMP car responding to the emergency. (Submitted)

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An RCMP officer charged after a 41-year-old man was run over and killed on a northern Alberta highway pleaded not guilty to two charges Wednesday in Fort McMurray provincial court.

Const. Michelle Phillips was not in court herself but entered her pleas through a lawyer. A preliminary inquiry will be held in June 2018.

Phillips was charged in June with one count of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

The charges followed an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team into the August 2016 death of 41-year-old Tracy Janvier, who was struck and killed by an RCMP vehicle travelling at "an extremely high rate of speed."

A 71-year-old bystander suffered a serious injury in the same incident.

ASIRT had been directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding a motor vehicle collision on Aug. 21, 2016, on HIghway 881 near Anzac.

Early that day, an RCMP officer was responding to a report that a vehicle had struck and injured a pedestrian walking on the highway. The exact location of the collision was not clear, ASIRT said.

"While responding at an extremely high rate of speed, the officer came upon a number of vehicles stopped on one side of the highway with their lights on and proceeded to drive past these vehicles without slowing," ASIRT said in the news release.

"Unfortunately, this location was where the pedestrian had been originally struck and the officer ran over the injured pedestrian prone on the roadway with the police vehicle, killing him, and striking the hand of a 71-year-old man who had been rendering aid to the pedestrian, causing serious injury."

At the time of the incident, Phillips had one year of service with the RCMP. She was 27 when the charges against her were laid in June. At the time, the RCMP said she has been suspended with pay and will remain off duty until the internal processes and all criminal charges against her are resolved.

Alberta's Justice department has said it will order a fatality inquiry into Janvier's death. A date has not been set. Fatality inquiries do not assign blame but judges can make recommendations on how to prevent future deaths. 

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitter or contact him via email.

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