Police re-enactment of cyclist's death rife with errors, court told

An Ottawa police collision expert agreed he made "a huge mistake" when he used a taller driver than the man charged in the death of a cyclist to re-enact the incident. That was just one of his errors.

Expert used taller truck driver to re-enact collision that killed Nusrat Jahan

Nusrat Jahan, 23, was struck and killed while cycling on Laurier Avenue W. on Sept. 1, 2016. (courtesy of family)

An Ottawa police collision expert agreed he made "a huge mistake" when he used a taller driver than the man charged in the death of a cyclist to re-enact the incident.

Det.-Const. Alain Boucher was testifying at the trial of Steven Conley, the driver of the Tomlinson construction truck that struck and killed 23-year-old Nusrat Jahan at the intersection of Laurier Avenue W. and Lyon Street on Sept. 1, 2016.

Conley has pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death.

In early November 2016, Boucher attempted to perform a re-enactment of the collision at the same intersection, in part to determine whether Conley would have been able to see Jahan from the cab of his truck as she waited at a red light in the segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue W.

5-inch height difference

In his report, submitted as a key piece of evidence in the trial, Boucher concluded the truck driver would have been able to spot the cyclist. That conclusion was based largely on a video from a camera placed on the re-enactment driver's head.

But Boucher testified he believed Conley was five feet nine inches tall, when in fact he's listed on his driver's licence as 164 centimetres, or five feet four inches. A much taller driver was therefore used in the re-enactment, and would have had a better view of his surroundings from the cab of the truck.

"You'll agree it's a huge mistake in his height," defence counsel Dominic Lamb prompted Boucher.

"In his height, yes," Boucher agreed.
The driver of the truck, Steven Conley, has pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death. (CBC News)

More discrepancies

Other discrepancies came to light in testimony Thursday: Jahan's driver's licence lists her height as 147 centimetres, while the coroner recorded her height as 150 centimetres. The cyclist Boucher used in his re-enactment was 149 centimetres tall, the height relayed to him by another detective.

In his report, Boucher noted the wheels on Jahan's bike were 24 inches or 60 centimetres in diameter, when in fact they were 26 inches or 66 centimetres.

Boucher also noted in his report a sign warning drivers to yield to cyclists before turning onto Lyon Street was clearly visible, but a photo taken the day of the collision and shown in court shows two trees obstructing views of the sign.

On Wednesday, Boucher testified he'd made yet another mistake in his re-enactment by failing to account for the new position of the bike lane stop line, which had been shifted forward following Jahan's death.

When he realized his error, Boucher revised the conclusion of his report to say Conley "may or may not" have seen Jahan waiting at the light. 

Earlier report ignored

Boucher took over the investigation from Det.-Const. Greg Rhoden nearly two months after Jahan's death. Court heard Rhoden had been removed from the investigation for "unrelated reasons," and is no longer a collision investigator with the Ottawa Police Service.

Under cross-examination Thursday, Boucher testified Rhoden had already conducted a blind spot analysis in an enclosed garage to determine whether Conley could have seen Jahan from the cab of his truck.

Rhoden used a similar construction truck to the one Conley was driving that morning, and a pole to represent Jahan. He concluded Conley could not have seen the cyclist as they waited at the red light.

"If Rhoden's blind spot analysis is correct then it's exculpatory, and that falls in favour of Mr. Conley," Lamb told Boucher.

"It's his opinion, yes," Boucher replied, adding he viewed Rhoden's report as "incomplete" and disagreed with his predecessor's methods. Boucher didn't include Rhoden's conclusions in his own report.

"You'll agree all the errors in your report were fixable," Lamb told Boucher as he wrapped up the cross-examination.

"Yes," Boucher agreed.

The trial is scheduled to continue Friday.