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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Water truck fatality: Not drugs just no seatbelt

Sedative didn’t cause man’s death - Not using a seatbelt the likely reason truck driver died, fatality inquiry determines

DAMIEN WOOD - Herald-Tribune staff

In the written findings of Michael Berggren’s fatality inquiry, Judge J. R. McIntosh concluded the death was not the result of a sedative found in the truck driver’s system at the time of death in a highway accident, stating it was purely the lack of a seatbelt.

The in-court proceedings occurred late last July in a Fairview courtroom.

The result of those proceedings was released to the public Wednesday.

It was the morning of Dec. 26, 2006, when 55-year-old Berggren was called in to work for what would be his last run at Ponto Water Hauling – his place of employment for the two years.

Berggren did not work the day before and got off early the day before that.

He has been reported by those who encountered him over this stretch to have seemed in good health and good spirits.

Nothing seemed wrong at all in the minds of common-law spouse Anna Tina Miller, his employer or his co-workers.

But at approximately 10:15 a.m. Dec. 26 – just a half hour after leaving on his run to an oil rig near Worsley – Berggren was involved in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 64, approximately 10 kilometres north of Hines Creek.

He was not wearing a seatbelt at the time and was ejected from the vehicle, which rolled over him and crushed his chest.

The scene responded to by authorities and emergency services was that of a water truck on its side and its driver some 20 feet away, lying in the middle of the road.

Not using a seatbelt is considered an oddity in behaviour for Berggren.

His spouse, employer and co-workers said Berggren habitually wore his seatbelt.

McIntosh stated in his concluding report that Berggren would have, in all likelihood, survived the rollover had he been wearing a seatbelt when the accident occurred.

Found to be in Berggren’s system at the time of the accident was 55 micrograms per litre of blood of a potent sedative of the benzodiazepine family – Estazolam – which was attributed to a natural health product called Serenity Pills II Berggren was talking to aid in sleeping.

The pills contained an amount of the sedative.

Estazolam was once marketed legally, but is now classified as a Schedule IV substance not legally available anywhere in North America.

Berggren had been using the product for about three months before the accident.

It is believed he took one before going to bed the night prior. Expert testimony stated it could have caused sedation and impaired his judgment while driving.

McIntosh concluded, however, there are too many variables in this incident to claim the sedative in Berggren’s system at the time of the accident was a contributing factor.

He went on to state it was not a contributing factor to the accident, or to the death.

Counsel at the fatality inquiry had requested McIntosh use his concluding report to educate the public with respect to Health Canada’s role in registration of natural health products.

Health Canada has been notified of the presence of Estazolam in Serenity Pills II, but McIntosh declined to use his findings and recommendations to any further effect.

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1 comment:

Dan said...

What a great loss for a firefighter, considered our everyday hero, to fall just because he didn't go to battle without a seatbelt. Trucks should always be equipped with seatbelts to avoid mishaps like these.