The sister of a Kenora, Ont., woman who was recently killed in a crash in the back of a police cruiser says more should be done to protect people being taken into custody.

Ontario Provincial Police officers were driving Gloria Assin, 42, to the Kenora detachment on Sept. 23 when the cruiser was rear-ended by a semi-trailer at the junction of Highway 17A and Highway 658.

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Gloria Assin was handcuffed and sitting in the back of the cruiser — without a seatbelt on — when the early-morning crash happened. (dignitymemorial.com)

Assin, who was arrested for public intoxication, was handcuffed and sitting in the back of the cruiser — without a seatbelt on — when the early-morning crash happened.

Her sister, Marcella Assin, said Gloria died from hitting her head on metal and plastic barriers inside the vehicle.

"It's just all metal in there, eh? The seat is all metal; you could easily slide around in there," Assin told CBC News in an interview.

"From the looks of it, the top of her head is all cut up."

Prisoners could not be wearing seatbelts in the rear of police cruisers because they are usually handcuffed behind their backs, says OPP spokesperson Sgt. Kelly Daniels-Griffis.

"So in that situation, when your hands are behind you, you can't even lean to the back of the seat," she said.

Exempt from seatbelt laws

Daniels-Griffis said the backs of police vehicles generally consist of plastic and metal, so "there wouldn't be any side airbags or anything to that effect."

Police vehicles are exempt from seatbelt laws, Daniels-Griffis added.

RCMP cruisers have the rear seatbelts removed altogether.

But Marcella Assin said something should be done to protect prisoners who are sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser in the event of a crash.

"I don't know why my sister, like, had to die in there," she said, her voice cracking.

Assin said she has contacted a lawyer to look into the case.

Ontario's independent police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), is investigating the Kenora crash.

Gloria Assin was buried in the Grassy Narrows First Nation on Sept. 27. She leaves behind four children, including two teenagers and two adults in their 20s.

Marcella Assin said SIU investigators told her that Gloria likely died instantly.

"That's what they said — at least she didn't suffer, she died right away," she said.

With files from the CBC's Meaghan Ketcheson