Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Driver error led to fatal bridge plunge, police say

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WINNIPEG police have concluded driver error caused the fatal crash that sent Kaitlyn Fraser's SUV through a Disraeli Bridge guardrail.

The 19-year-old Winnipeg woman died in January after she lost control of her SUV while travelling south on the bridge, struck another vehicle and crashed through the protective guardrail. The vehicle fell 14 metres to the riverbank below and landed on its roof.

Sgt. Rob Riffel of the Winnipeg Police Service central traffic unit said investigators determined Fraser was driving too fast for the road conditions and driver error was the cause of the tragic accident.

At the time of the crash, witnesses said the roads were extremely icy due to the frigid cold and recent snowfall. That afternoon felt like -36 with the wind chill.

Riffel said officers determined the bridge was not sanded at the time of the accident. However, that did not contribute to the crash, since motorists need to drive to the road conditions whether it's sanded or not, he said.

Immediately following the accident, City of Winnipeg officials said they did not know if the Disraeli had been sanded but that, in general, sand is less effective on roads during cold snaps since it has trouble sticking to snow and ice.

"(Fraser) hit an icy patch on the bridge," Riffel said Thursday. "She lost control of the car. It could've been driver inexperience."

The woman's surrogate family in Winnipeg said she only recently obtained her licence and had been driving for less than a month when she died.

Police did not assess the safety of the guardrail Fraser crashed through as part of their investigation.

Riffel said police officers are not bridge engineers and could not assess the rail's integrity. Ultimately, the guardrail did not play a role in the crash itself, he said, but Fraser suffered catastrophic injuries when her vehicle crashed through it.

City of Winnipeg officials initially said the railing that failed to prevent her from plunging to her death was not unsafe, despite the fact it does not meet modern-day standards.

City of Winnipeg inspection reports later obtained by the Free Press show the Disraeli Bridge guardrail Fraser's vehicle crashed through was found to be in "poor" shape just one month before her accident. Copies of all inspection reports show there was "extensive corrosion" in the lower portion of the guardrail's barrier posts. The traffic barrier, sidewalk and curb were also rated in poor condition.

Police concluded their investigation into the incident two weeks ago, but waited to release details so they could share the findings with Fraser's family beforehand.

jen.skerritt@freepress.mb.ca

Archive video: Woman dead after car plunges over Disraeli Bridge

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 23, 2012 A4

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