It was a deadly week on Stettler-area roads, with two people left dead and several injured in separate incidents.
A 64-year-old Stettler man was killed when the motorcycle he was driving crossed into oncoming traffic and collided with a semi-truck around 1 p.m. on Oct. 8. The collision happened on Highway 11, about a kilometre south of the intersection with Highway 12. RCMP, Stettler Regional Fire and Rescue, and emergency medical services (EMS) attended the collision, where the motorcycle driver was declared dead.
The 43-year-old Stetter man behind the wheel of the semi-truck was uninjured. A traffic reconstructionist travelled from Red Deer to analyze the collision, which closed the highway for several hours. Weather, traffic and speed were not believed to be a factor, and while it will take months for tests to confirm if alcohol or drugs were a factor, RCMP Cpl. Ryan Koehli said it’s not believed to have been a factor, either.
The motorcyclist was wearing a helmet. No charges are being laid.
Three days later on Oct. 11, a 20-year-old Stettler man was killed when his pick-up truck rolled on Highway 12, inside the Town of Stettler. The collision, which happened shortly after midnight, had the highway closed for several hours.
The 20-year-old driver of the truck was pronounced dead at scene, and one of his two 18-year-old passengers was taken by ground ambulance to Stettler Hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries. The second passenger was airlifted by STARS to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton.
According to Const. Robert Harms, the collision remains under investigation with the assistance of an RCMP collision analyst, with a cause yet to be determined. However, “speed is believed to be a factor in the collision,” Harms noted.
Constable injured as police car rammed during arrestA Stettler RCMP constable had his car was rammed during an arrest, causing him minor injuries and seriously damaging the cruiser.
Shortly before midnight on Monday, Oct. 12, police received a call about a vehicle cruising in the industrial area of the town. The first RCMP member on scene found the vehicle, a black Ford truck determined to be stolen, and activated his emergency lights and siren. The truck sped past the cruiser, then reversed direction and drove directly at a second RCMP cruiser that had responded to the call.
“(The truck driver) drove directly at the second police vehicle, ramming the front right corner, causing extensive damage to the police vehicle,” Stettler RCMP detachment commander Cpl. Cameron Russell said.
After disabling the cruiser, the driver of the truck continued pushing the truck several meters before the driver and passengers were arrested.
The constable in the damaged cruiser was taken to the hospital as a precaution, though he was released with minor injuries.
Both passengers in the vehicle, Christopher Weich, 28 of Trochu and Brady Shivak, 33 of Vancouver Island, have been charged with possession of stolen property. Shivak faces a second charge of possession of stolen property and a charge of possession of crystal methamphetamine.
Charges against the driver are pending and the investigation continues.
Community comes together to fight theftsWhen the economy started to have problems last year, now-retired Sgt. Duncan Babchuk said he expected to see some types of crime go up, including break-and-enters. While the statistics aren’t in yet to prove his prediction true or false, members of the community have a feeling that crime is definitely on the rise.
In July, Cory Marshall started the Facebook group called Stettler and Area Thefts, all with the goal of helping the community help each other find things that had been stolen.
“Anything from a child’s bike, up to a camper or vehicle, is allowed,” Marshall said on the Facebook page.
Since then, the page has been used by both people and businesses who have had property stolen — trucks, bicycles and reported break-ins. Some businesses post surveillance photos. Others post pictures of stolen vehicles, only to have photos posted by others asking, “Is this your truck? It’s at this location.”
Lately, the page has taken on a new use as well, a digital community group that reports to each other suspicious behaviour.
“Driving home from work and about to turn down my back alley,” one woman wrote on the group’s wall. “Saw three guys walking on the road trying to open doors of vehicles. Just down from the arena.”
Another day, another post: “Blue Ford F250 or 350 cruising around Erskine. I was sitting in my vehicle when it backed down our driveway. When I opened my door it took off. Reported to the RCMP and drove around town. Found it driving around slowly, driving in and out of people’s driveways.”
Koehli said he wasn’t familiar with the Facebook group specifically, but noted that “any engagement from the citizens is appreciated, and tips are followed up on. Any community group that raises awareness of an issue is helpful.”
He said that when people phone the RCMP to report stolen vehicles, a patrol is made in the area in the hopes of a quick recovery.
In the meantime, people can help make their vehicles unattractive to thieves by not leaving keys inside the vehicle, locking doors, and not keeping valuables in the vehicle. If there has to be items kept in the vehicle, they should not be kept in plain sight.