Alcohol, distracted driving and not using a seatbelt were among factors contributing to the death of a Mount Lorne volunteer firefighter who rolled a stolen ambulance into a ditch near Haines Junction in June, according to a report by the Yukon coroner’s service.
The report, dated Nov. 14, states that 19-year-old Elizabeth Boyd died in a crash near Kilometre 1566 of the Alaska Highway the morning of June 13 after sustaining “multiple blunt force injuries which would have been instantly incompatible with life.”
The manner of death is listed as accidental.
According to the report, Boyd and a friend had been driving from Whitehorse to Haines Junction in the friend’s mother’s Dodge pickup truck early on the morning of June 13. The pair intentionally drove the truck “off road,” the report says, and the truck got stuck in a muddy ditch near a Department of Highways and Public Works (HPW) jobsite at Cracker Creek.
The pair tried for about two hours to get the truck unstuck and to get help from passing motorists, the report continues, before gaining access to a private ambulance belonging to HPW that was parked at the jobsite.
Boyd drover herself and her friend the remaining 43 kilometres to Haines Junction, the report says, where they picked up another vehicle to help pull the truck out of the mud. She then began driving the ambulance back to Cracker Creek ahead of her friend, “presumably to return” the ambulance.
According to the report, a witness driving towards Haines Junction that morning reported that an ambulance being driven in an “‘erratic’ manner” had overtaken him, and that the same vehicle then passed him again shortly after 7 a.m., this time heading east. The witness was “able to discern that the female driver did not appear to be wearing a seatbelt and was looking down as they passed,” the report says.
Skid marks on the highway show that Boyd lost control of the ambulance about six kilometres later, the report says, rolling it into a ditch along the north side of the highway where it came to a rest on the driver’s side.
Boyd was found dead under the ambulance.
The report says that sleep deprivation, moderate to heavy levels of alcohol, driver inexperience, lack of seatbelt use and driver distraction were all significant factors in Boyd’s death.
Toxicology showed that she had a blood alcohol content to 0.17 per cent, the report says, which is more than double the legal driving limit, and she had also sent a text at 2:45 a.m. that morning saying that she “had been drinking and could not drive.”
“Approximately two hours later she found herself in a situation where the vehicle in which she was a passenger became stuck,” the report reads. “Not having success in flagging down a passing vehicle, she made the decision to enter vehicles at the Yukon Government’s Department of Highways and Public Works jobsite at Crack Creek. She chose to drive the accessible Emergency Transport Vehicle the 43 km to Haines Junction, with the intent to return to the jobsite with the help required to free the stuck vehicle.”
The report also states that, “as far as could be determined,” Boyd had not slept in the 24 hours before the accident, was unfamiliar with driving the ambulance and, based on records, had been using her cellphone “moments before the fatal incident occurred.”
The report made two recommendations related to the incident, both directed at HPW.
The first recommends that the department’s transportation maintenance branch introduces procedures that make a jobsite crew member responsible for the ambulance, ensure that the ambulance is consistently removed from the jobsite at the end of the day and ensure that all other equipment left on site is locked and secured.
The other recommends that the motor vehicles transportation branch “provide renewed public education and awareness” on road safety, including alcohol-impaired driving, fatigued driving, distracted driving and seatbelt use.
In a phone interview Nov. 22, Department of Highways and Public Works spokesperson Oshea Jephson confirmed that the department has seen the report and recommendations and is currently discussing next steps.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org