The death of Ester Emelina Scott on April 19, 2016, was by misadventure, a Coroner’s Jury ruled on Thursday.
The jury of four women and three men heard evidence the previous day about the circumstances in which the rear wheels of a 26-foot dump truck rolled over her in her yard.
The truck had reversed into her yard to dump a load of crusher run, also referred to as marl. The driver had her sign a receipt for the delivery and then got into his truck to drive away. There were no eyewitnesses to what happened next.
The jury also heard that Mrs. Scott, 66, had vision problems and limped.
Government pathologist Dr. Shravana Jyoti submitted his autopsy report, concluding that Mrs. Scott died of multiple crush and fracture injuries, primarily on her left side.
Queen’s Coroner Eileen Nervik called accident reconstructionist Vincent Walters to give evidence and she read the report of fellow reconstructionist Colin Redden. Both men referred to the surface of the driveway in the yard. It was not smooth or level; it contained loose dirt and small rocks.
Jurors received copies of photographs and sketches, along with the statement of investigating officer Alviston Watts. He confirmed that the driver had been breathalyzed after the incident; his alcohol level was 0.00. He also stated that the weather was clear and sunny at the time of the accident, around 5 p.m.
Mr. Redden stated that he had examined the truck and found no visible sign of blunt trauma contact with Mrs. Scott. He included the front bumper, cab, the area between the cab and “box” – the part that carries the load – and the box itself. The two right rear tires had blood and body fluids on them. Further, there were tire marks in the area of blood in the driveway, which Mr. Redden referred to as the area of impact.
On further examination, Mr. Redden found the driver’s footwell to be free of obstruction. He drove the truck, which was left-hand drive, and found that it drove, steered and braked normally.
The crusher run had been dumped on the west side of the house – the right side, looking into the yard from the road. There was a naseberry tree and septic tank on the left side. The driver said Mrs. Scott had signalled to him where the marl was to be delivered. He told her to stay by the tree, away from the truck, before he dumped the marl. Afterward, he walked over to where she was and she signed for the delivery and paid him. The driver then told her he was going to leave and said she should stay there by the tree.
Mrs. Scott’s sister, who lived nearby, said she saw Mrs. Scott standing close to the septic tank. The coroner, in her summing up, pointed out that the tree and septic tank were on the same side of the house “and not that far away from each other.”
The driver got in the truck and released the brake. He did not need to use the gas because the driveway sloped down to the road. He watched for traffic and then, as he went into the road, he felt a bump. There had been no bump when he drove into the yard, so he got out of the truck to check.
He saw Mrs. Scott lying face down in the driveway on the right side of the truck. He had no idea how she got there from where he had left her by the naseberry tree. He said she had been standing by the tree when he released the truck brake. He could not understand why she would come out from under the tree. He thought she must have walked toward the road and fallen down between the front and back wheels as the truck was turning left onto the road. The distance between the front and rear axles was 12 feet.
The reconstructionists noted that the back wheels would have traveled in an arc as the truck turned. There was no visible sign that Mrs. Scott had touched the box of the truck. When she lost her footing, the front part of the truck had already passed and she got caught by the back tires, Mr. Redden concluded.
He thought Mrs. Scott’s physical condition should be taken into account. Relatives had confirmed that she had difficulties with peripheral (side) vision, so there were blind spots for her although she had fairly good vision straightforward. She also wore a brace on one knee and walked with a limp.
In her instructions to the jury, the coroner pointed out that the goal of the inquest was to examine facts and find out the truth of what had happened to cause the death. She explained the possible verdicts, but eliminated most of them.
For example, the pathologist had not mentioned Mrs. Scott having any disease or illness, so natural causes was not an option as a verdict. There was no evidence of gross negligence, lawful killing or intent to commit suicide. The two verdicts left for the jury to consider were misadventure or an open verdict, which would mean that the evidence had been insufficient for the jury to come to a conclusion.
The jury deliberated for almost an hour and returned a unanimous verdict of misadventure.