Ottawa

Screams, then silence: Witnesses to cyclist's death describe horrific scene

A witness testifying at the trial of a truck driver accused of criminal negligence in the death of an Ottawa cyclist described hearing the young woman's screams fall silent as the vehicle rolled over her at a downtown intersection in September 2016.

WARNING: This story includes graphic details some readers may find disturbing.

Nusrat Jahan, 23, was struck by a truck and killed while cycling in a segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue W. on Sept. 1, 2016. (courtesy of family)

WARNING: This story includes graphic details some readers may find disturbing.


A witness testifying at the trial of a truck driver accused of criminal negligence in the death of an Ottawa cyclist described hearing the young woman's screams fall silent as the vehicle rolled over her at a downtown intersection in September 2016.

Nusrat Jahan, 23, was cycling east in the segregated bike lane on Laurier Avenue W. when she was struck by a Tomlinson construction truck and pinned under its rear wheel at the corner of Lyon Street around 7:45 a.m. on Sept. 1, 2016.

The driver, Steven Conley, 40, pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death. 

Jahan, a student at Willis College who came to Ottawa in 2013, was the daughter of a diplomat working at the Bangladesh High Commission. 

I yelled, 'Stop!'

Brett Hogan, a reservist with the Canadian Armed Forces who happens to have a specialty in trucking, said he was walking home on Laurier Avenue W. when he heard a loud noise that sounded like "metal on metal."

He noticed people on the sidewalk "screaming and flailing their arms," so he approached the truck and saw "someone under the vehicle."

Hogan said the truck moved forward "about a foot," and that's when he heard Jahan screaming from beneath the passenger side of the vehicle.  

"I yelled, 'Stop!' and my hand went up, but then the tires went over the person," said Hogan. "It made a loud popping noise and then there was no more screaming."  

The truck involved in the collision that killed cyclist Nusrat Jahan, 23, didn't have side guards. (CBC News)

Hogan testified he bent down under the truck to check the victim's vital signs and administer first aid and saw her caught between the truck's rear axles. Her mangled bike lay under the vehicle. 

"She was lying in an unnatural way and her legs were wrapped around the bicycle, and there was something wrong with her head," said Hogan. 

He attempted to locate a pulse on Jahan's neck, and when he removed his hand it was covered in blood.  

"I felt she was no longer alive," Hogan testified, his voice quivering with emotion. "There was a pool of blood around me and I felt a little helpless." 

Throughout the testimony Jahan's family members hung their heads and her mother wept openly. 

Driver seemed unaware: witness

Another witness, Robert Potvin, said he had parked his small school bus near the intersection and was waiting to pick up a child for daycare when he heard a commotion.

I looked at the driver behind the steering wheel and I can say he had no clue what was happening under his truck.- Robert Potvin, witness

He said when he opened his bus door the Tomlinson truck was right there.

"I can see her under the truck and she's shouting, 'Stop, stop!' but the truck jerked forward and stopped on her." 

Potvin described the scene as "unreal" due to the large amount of blood.  

"I looked at the driver behind the steering wheel and I can say he had no clue what was happening under his truck," Potvin testified.

Laura Brundia was driving to work at a local bank when she found herself behind the Tomlinson truck heading east down Laurier Avenue W. on the morning of the collision.  

She said there was a green straight arrow for eastbound traffic as they approached the intersection at Lyon Street. She said she was "surprised" when the truck in front of her turned right, because it didn't have its turning signal on. 

"I did see the cyclist look up at the [truck's] windshield," she said. "There was no real stoppage, and you hope it's going to stop but I saw the cyclist go under the wheel." 

Court shown video

Crown attorney John Ramsay presented  a video in court from a traffic camera showing both the truck and Brundia's black vehicle driving east.  

On cross-examination by defence lawyer Dominic Lamb, Brundia did agree the truck came to a stop at the intersection, and the driver did turn slowly onto Lyon Street.  

"I guess," Brundia agreed. "Yeah, it was slow."  

The Crown called Lorne Derick, a driver for Tomlinson, who testified he drove the truck away from the collision scene and found nothing mechanically wrong with the vehicle, including its turn signals. 

But on cross-examination he told court he'd driven that same truck for a couple of years and noted it had a split windshield with a three-centimetre divider between the two panes of glass. 

He agreed with defence attorneys that the windshield "sometimes obstructs your view."  

Derick said it wasn't always possible to see people at the curb below when the truck was making a right turn. 

The trial continues Wednesday.  

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