An internal review of a high-speed police chase that led to two deaths in a fiery crash near Hinton, Alta., last November found that the officers should have called off the pursuit, a senior RCMP official said Friday.
"The independent review … going through it in hindsight, said, 'At this point, your risk assessment should have been that you would have discontinued the pursuit,' and so that is the advice that would be going back to the members involved," said Alberta Chief Supt. Fred Kamins. "Is it a criticism? I guess, technically, it's a criticism. I prefer to view it as feedback."
Kamins added that he does not believe the officers involved will face any disciplinary actions. The situation evolved quickly and the pursuit was being monitored by a chase supervisor, he said.
Kamins' comments contrasted with the findings of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which earlier on Friday announced that its investigation had found the actions by police involved in the pursuit had been justified.
"They were faced with a very dangerous situation, and their response was justified and lawful," said Clifton Purvis, executive director of ASIRT, a civilian agency that investigates incidents involving Alberta police that cause death or serious injury.
"It may not have been the best decision — that will be for the experts to determine later, I'm sure — but indeed, I've determined that their actions were not criminal," Purvis said.
The crash late in the afternoon of Nov. 19 killed two men, Stephen Kenyon, 21, and Brad Kerfoot, 30, on Highway 16 just outside the town, about 280 kilometres west of Edmonton.
Four RCMP cruisers were chasing a stolen van that was driven by Kenyon when it struck Kerfoot's vehicle head-on. Both men died at the scene.
Brother 'very disappointed'
Kerfoot's brother, Jason Kerfoot, said he was "very disappointed" with the ASIRT findings.
"It was a bad decision by all involved, in my opinion," he said. "Like who was the person calling this chase, like who's responsible for calling off these chases, because … with all these police vehicles involved, somebody ultimately is in charge and they all dispatch to the main office, and why would this not be called off?"
Kenyon had been working as a roofer in Jasper. But he got into a dispute with his supervisor and stole the van from a job site, Purvis said.
An RCMP officer first noticed the speeding vehicle near the east Jasper Park gates but did not initiate a pursuit, though Kamins said the officer did warn the Hinton detachment that the van might be headed its way.
When the van entered Hinton, it was going east in a westbound lane of Highway 16 at about 140 km/h. It passed through red lights, and after a little over a kilometre it swerved back into the eastbound lanes, Purvis said.
180 km/h against traffic flow
The van continued in the eastbound lanes for about 1.2 kilometres before it veered back across the road so it was again travelling against oncoming westbound traffic.
Police stayed in the eastbound lanes, keeping their cruisers parallel with the speeding van. Their vehicles had their sirens and emergency lights activated in hopes of warning drivers to get out of the way. At this point, speeds exceeded 180 km/h.
After another 10 kilometres, the van struck an oncoming vehicle, instantly killing Kerfoot, who was driving to his job.
The stolen van passed about 70 vehicles in the 12½ minutes between the start of the chase outside Hinton and the crash, Purvis said.
Investigators from ASIRT reviewed statements from 36 civilian and 13 RCMP witnesses as well as video from a camera in one of the RCMP cruisers.
"That video was extremely valuable in discovering the truth in relation to the events that led to this tragedy," Purvis said.