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Charges still pending in 2012 South Surrey hit-and-run
The one-year anniversary of a shocking pedestrian hit-and-run has come and gone with still no charges laid against the driver believed to be responsible.
RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet confirmed Wednesday that while investigators recommended charges last month in connection with the Dec. 3, 2012 incident that seriously injured joggers Shelley Lammers and Nola Carlson, Crown counsel has yet to determine exactly what charges will go forward.
Failure to remain at the scene of an accident is likely; dangerous driving causing bodily harm is another possibility.
“Charges are likely, they just have not been finalized at this point,” Paquet said. “Whether they’ll be under the Motor Vehicle Act or under the Criminal Code is still to be confirmed.”
Three days after the South Surrey collision, police announced the arrest of a 53-year-old Surrey man and the seizure of a BMW X1. Both were located at a residence not far from the collision scene.
Lammers and Carlson, who were wearing reflective clothing and headlamps, were hit just before 8 p.m. on the night in question, as they jogged across 152 Street at 32 Avenue. A traffic camera recorded the impact and – about 25 seconds later – a figure on foot approach the women and lean over them before rapidly departing.
Lammers, a Delta resident, suffered a collapsed lung, two broken vertebrae, a lacerated liver, a concussion and fractured ribs. Carlson’s injuries included a broken nose and cheekbone.
Two days later, Carlson described the fact that the driver left the scene as “heinous.”
“I’m appalled and I’m frightened – what’s the world coming to when these kinds of accidents happen and drivers just leave the person lying there?” she told Peace Arch News.
Neither Lammers nor Carlson, a South Surrey resident, have commented publicly since.
Paquet said Wednesday that the video footage was instrumental in identifying a suspect. Investigators’ phones started ringing as soon as it hit the news, he said.
While the media attention did not prompt the driver to contact police, it did trigger the memory of a witness who “noted odd behaviour of one person” and remembered a licence-plate number.
Paquet said that despite public expectations for quick justice fueled by such television shows as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation – which detail crimes committed and solved in short order – in reality, those investigations take much longer.
“In cases where the injuries are severe or fatality is involved… it involves so much work behind the scenes,” he said. “We want to ensure for quick and accurate process that our report is thorough, but it’s also something we owe to the victims and their families. The last thing we want is having unnecessary court delays, court seeking additional details or clarification, or a worst-case scenario – having the charges stayed because our report is not complete.”
It’s not as simple as “go to the accident, take a couple of pictures, talk to the bad guy and we’re done,” Paquet said.
“We owe it to the families to do the best job that we can, not the quickest one.”
He noted the statute of limitations for laying charges in criminal matters leaves the door open for “years.”
Likely contributing to the length of time for this investigation is the sheer volume of cases currently being handled by the Mounties’ Criminal Collision Investigative Team. Paquet said that with 16 motor vehicle-related fatalities to date – seven of them pedestrians – 2013 has been “one of their busiest years on record.”
In the South Surrey file, more than 20 witnesses were interviewed, not including police and first-responders. As well, investigators looked into cellphone, medical and other records – each of which required official authorization to ensure privacy and information-disclosure laws were followed.
Paquet said that once Crown approves charges, the accused will be served with those details and an order to appear in court. He will not be re-arrested.
Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie was unable to provide an update on the status of Crown’s review by PAN’s deadline Wednesday afternoon.
He did note that if it takes police 11 months to forward a report to Crown, “it’s not usually something that will necessarily be reviewed in a couple of days by us.”