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Police cleared in Amber Alert crash

Members of the Pembroke Fire Department and the Pembroke OPP examine the scene of a crash involving a vehicle on Paul Martin Drive in Pembroke, Ont. in front of Pemco Steel in April 2016. The vehicle had been involved in an Amber Alert from Aurora, Ont. and contained a four-year-old girl and her father. 
STEPHEN UHLER/PEMBROKE DAILY OBSERVER/POSTMEDIA NETWORK file photo

Members of the Pembroke Fire Department and the Pembroke OPP examine the scene of a crash involving a vehicle on Paul Martin Drive in Pembroke, Ont. in front of Pemco Steel in April 2016. The vehicle had been involved in an Amber Alert from Aurora, Ont. and contained a four-year-old girl and her father. STEPHEN UHLER/PEMBROKE DAILY OBSERVER/POSTMEDIA NETWORK file photo

The province's Special Investigations Unit has cleared police involved in a high-speed chase that ended with a single-vehicle crash on Pembroke’s Paul Martin Drive.

Director of the special investigations unit Tony Loparco stated Thursday he has determined there are no reasonable grounds to lay criminal charges against an unnamed Ontario Provincial Police officer with the Bancroft detachment in relation to the serious injuries sustained by a 35-year-old man and a four-year-old girl during the vehicle collision which ended a province-wide Amber alert.

The alert was issued by York Regional Police in the early morning hours of April 18, 2016 when a man abducted the child from her home in Aurora, Ont. and fled in a silver 2008 Toyota Sienna. An Ontario Provincial Police officer patrolling Highway 62 spotted the suspect vehicle going through Bancroft at a high rate of speed. Despite attempts to pull the vehicle over, the driver continued eastbound towards Pembroke.

Following the crash, Mario Rodrigues was charged with abduction, breaking and entering with intent to commit an indictable offence and assault. The child sustained non-life-threatening spinal injuries as a result. In his report released Thursday, Loparco concluded he could find no causal connection between a pursuit of short-lived duration for a lawful purpose which was terminated as soon as it became clear that the suspect vehicle's driver would not comply with police commands to pull over and a collision that occurred some 130 kilometres away with no police interaction with the driver in the intervening hour.

During his investigation, Loparco interviewed the subject officer who that morning heard the Amber Alert and began patrolling Highway 28 near Bancroft in search of the suspect vehicle. When he did spot it nine kilometres out of Bancroft it was travelling at a high rate of speed, the subject officer accelerated to close the gap. Shortly thereafter, he activated his emergency lighting to initiate a traffic stop whereupon the van initially slowed as if to stop, but then accelerated and sped off.

In his statement, the subject officer recounted that he pursued the van and observed the driver disobey a red signal light and continue to travel on Highway 28 at a high rate of speed. During this pursuit, the subject officer noted his speed fluctuated between 130 and 150 kilometres an hour but he never managed to close the gap between his cruiser and the suspect vehicle which he estimated was driving up to 160 kilometres an hour. He then reported losing sight of the vehicle and was then instructed by the communications centre to stop and pull over.

When it reached Pembroke, the Toyota van was northbound on Paul Martin Drive when it entered into a left hand curve at a high rate of speed. As it proceeded through the curve the van exceeded the available traction force and entered into a ‘yaw’ movement, the report found. As the van continued through the curve the vehicle began to side slip, leaving the scuff marks on the roadway and the rear tires to out-track the front tires. As the vehicle left the roadway it created furrows in the gravel shoulder, throwing dirt in an easterly direction. The van travelled into the ditch, struck two metal sign posts, leaving scrapes and scuffs on the post.

The pre-crash data from the event data recorder (EDR) indicated that the van was travelling at a minimum 126 kilometres an hour but the report concluded the speed was closer to 119 kilometres an hour. At the speed the van was travelling it was impossible for it to negotiate the left hand curve, Loparco concluded, resulting in the van leaving the roadway and rolling over.

SChase@postmedia.com