Saskatoon

Austin Eaglechief's body 'crumpled' in wreckage after high speed collision, inquest hears

Austin Eaglechief, 22, led police on a high-speed chase on June 19, 2017 reaching a speed of more than 160 km/h, a public inquest into the man's death has heard.

Stop stick meant to stop vehicles didn't work on modified truck Eaglechief was driving, witness says

Police investigate the scene where Austin Eaglechief crashed into another vehicle on June 19, 2017. (Alicia Bridges/CBC)

Austin Eaglechief was driving a stolen pickup truck at a speed of more than 160 kilometres per hour moments before he collided with another truck and died at the crash site.

His body was "crumpled" under the steering wheel, an inquest into his death has heard.

Eaglechief, 22, led police on a high-speed chase on June 19, 2017, refusing to stop at more than one point, said Detective Sgt. Kory Ochitwa. 

Ochitwa, the Saskatoon major crimes detective who oversaw the police force's internal probe into Eaglechief's death, was the first witness in a coroner's inquest Monday morning. The inquest is meant as a fact finding mission and not a criminal trial.

Ochitwa said no criminal charges were warranted for any of the many officers involved in the incident, and went on to give a broad summary of the incident. 

A modified truck 

Police were first told a truck had been stolen from a person's driveway early that morning, at around 3:45 a.m. CST

It was a highly-modified truck, with larger wheels, a suspended cab and metal grills at the front and back bumpers. 

Police followed the truck and unsuccessfully tried to stop the vehicle using stop stick — a tire-deflation device — but the truck fled.

Sixteen hours later, at around 8:50 p.m., the truck was spotted again. A police plane tracked the truck down to a cul-de-sac called Clearwater Place. 

There, Eaglechief and his passenger, Matthew Gamble, briefly exited the truck before getting back in and speeding off again. Officers on wheels had been told at this point not to pursue the car. 

Ochitwa said the truck rammed a police vehicle while accelerating out of the cul-de-sac. The officer inside the damaged cruiser was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Another police officer then fired two shots at the fleeing truck.

Austin Eaglechief was 22 when he died. (Facebook)

Passenger to be heard from

Eaglechief was eventually observed on Circle Drive at a speed of more than 160 kilometres an hour and crashed into another truck driven by a civilian, Ochitwa said. 

Officers found Eaglechief "crumpled" behind the steering wheel of the "significantly-damaged truck" and tried CPR, but medics soon pronounced him dead, Ochitwa said. 

The inquest is expected to hear from as many as 15 other witnesses, mostly police officers who dealt with the stolen truck that day.

The passenger, Matthew Gamble, is also expected to testify.

The video of the fleeing truck taken by the police plane is also expected to be played for the six jurors, three of whom were chosen from a pool of self-identified Indigenous people. 

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

All-platform journalist for CBC Saskatoon

Story tips? guy.quenneville@cbc.ca

now