The man wanted in connection with a fatal crash near Ladysmith on Vancouver Island has been arrested.
BC RCMP Cpl. Mike Halskov told CHEK that officers arrested the suspect on “unrelated matters” late Wednesday morning at an undisclosed location on Vancouver Island.
“I am pleased to report that late this morning, the suspect believed responsible for the Ladysmith fatal crash on Aug. 29 has been taken into custody by RCMP,” he said.
RCMP are not releasing the suspect’s name at this time because charges have not been laid in relation to the fatal collision.
The man had been on the run for days following a multi-vehicle crash that claimed the life of 35-year-old Katie Blogg, a mother of two from Ladysmith, over the weekend.
On Saturday (Aug. 29), a Ford F-150 pickup truck was travelling southbound on Trans-Canada Highway, near Oyster Sto Lo Road, when it went over a dividing concrete barrier and collided with a northbound SUV that was being driven by Blogg. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver of the Ford F-150 stole a nearby vehicle – later found in Chemainus and examined by a forensics team – and fled the scene, according to BC RCMP. He remained on the run for five days, despite reportedly telling RCMP he would turn himself in.
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Halskov told CHEK he couldn’t provide any further information about where the suspect was found, whether he was with anyone, or what kind of condition he was in at the time of the arrest. He did, however, explain that while forensics played a role in helping identify the suspect, eyewitnesses at the scene of the crash provided valuable information to investigators.
“Forensics will definitely be playing a part in this investigation but largely the identification of the individual came from witnesses at the scene,” explained Halskov. “That was very helpful in the early going and that is why we were quickly able to determine who we were looking for.
Yet despite witness descriptions of the suspect, the man remained on the run for five days. During that time BC RCMP released very few details about the suspect – only revealing that he was a man in his 30s who split time between Island and the Lower Mainland and was known to law enforcement in both areas.
Halskov said the pressure from the public was intense, and rightfully so, adding that while it may have appeared that police weren’t doing their jobs, they were working as hard as they could.
“We feel the pressure from the public too and we totally understand their frustration as to why we can’t be forthcoming with more information, including a suspect’s name or a picture or things like that,” he said.
“While we would like to sometimes release more information, there are times where our hands are tied and we can’t.”
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There were are a number of reasons for the lack of information provided to the public, such as preserving witness statements and preventing vigilantism, according to Halskov, who said while he hadn’t heard of reports of vigilantism, he wouldn’t be surprised if people were threatening the suspect.
“[Vigilantism] is part of the reason why we were not quick to release a suspect’s name, to avoid this very thing from happening because we don’t want to create extra work for our investigators,” he said.
Another reason for the lack of information, said Halskov, is due to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in 2016 to established new time limits in criminal trials. Those new time limits mean prosecutors have 18 months from the time an accused is charged to bring a criminal case against them to trial in provincial court, and 30 months for cases in other courts.
“We are restricted in some ways because if we go and ask for a warrant for example, which means we would have to take the matter before crown counsel and they would have to be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to lay a charge,” Halskov previously told CHEK. “That initiates a process called disclosure and because of the R. vs Jordan ruling a few years ago it puts the investigators under an extreme time crunch to get this investigation completed and investigations of this nature routinely take a long time to complete.”
RELATED: Motorist wanted in connection with fatal crash near Ladysmith to turn himself in, say RCMP
Although the suspect has been captured, the investigation into the crash remains ongoing, according to Halskov. He said once it’s completed, RCMP will be recommending a handful of charges to Crown counsel.
“We will be recommending a number of very serious charges including criminal negligence causing death, failure to remain at the scene of an accident causing death, and there may be other charges that flow from this as well,” explained Halskov.
A person convicted of criminal negligence causing death or failure to remain at the scene of an accident causing death can be sentenced to life in prison. Halskov said it’s far too early to determine what could happen in this case, since charges haven’t even been laid.
“It is really on a case by case basis what is determined by a judge or jury, if this matter progress to trial,” he said. “If this matter progresses to trial, the maximum penalty allowed in the criminal code for those offences is life in prison.”
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Halskov also said the man will be making a court appearance in “the next day or two” for the unrelated charges against him.
“There will probably be some discussion on the fatal crash,” he said. “From there, it is up to courts to decide whether he will be held in custody or released on some sort of conditions while the investigation continues and makes its way to the courts.”
At the end of the day, Halskov said the RCMP are thankful for the public’s interest in the matter.
“We want to thank both the media and public for keeping the pressure on and keeping this tragic incident at the forefront, which undoubtedly put some pressure on the suspect to hunker down into a place where we could finally get our hands on him,” he said.
A GoFundMe has been established for the family and has raised more than $100,000 since launching Aug. 31. To view or donate to the GoFundMe fundraiser established for the Blogg family, click here.