NEWS
09/02/2016 14:49 EDT | Updated 09/03/2017 01:12 EDT

Father of Edmonton woman killed by Jeep stunt criticizes planning

EDMONTON — The father of a woman killed during a demonstration between two off-road Jeeps says organizers did a poor job of considering risk at the event. 

"There was no proper risk analysis done and no opportunity for risk analysis to be done," John Green said Friday at the fatality inquiry into the 2013 death of his daughter Melinda.

"It's our family's opinion there was a deep lack of risk analysis."

The 20-year-old was crushed between two vehicles when a manoeuvre called stacking — where one Jeep climbs up the front wheel of a second Jeep — went awry.

The demonstration was during an event called Jeeps Go Topless, jointly put on by a Jeep owners group and the Edmonton office of property management company Bentall Kennedy.

The inquiry heard the demonstration came about after it was mentioned by a news cameraman, who expressed an interest in filming it if it were attempted.

Bentall Kennedy employee Haylie Thomlison, one of the organizers, said everything came together before she had a chance to think it through.

"It honestly happened so fast that that (safety) discussion didn't take place," she said.

"We didn't have a conversation whether we should or shouldn't have it. It just basically happened." 

Thomlison said there had been no plans for such a demonstration.

"It should never have taken place," she said. "We should have said, 'It's not part of our schedule.'"

On the first day of testimony Thursday, Jeep driver Craig Supernault described what happened while he sat in his vehicle atop a second, stationary Jeep.

He said the parking brake was engaged, the transmission in first gear and the clutch and brake both depressed when he turned the key to restart the engine. The motor immediately revved out of control, he said, and, despite the brakes, lurched forward toward a row of parked Jeeps and onlookers.

Green was killed when Supernault struck another vehicle and flipped on his side.

But Edmonton police Const. Darren Sunley said Supernault's account was unlikely. He said the Jeep had been turned over to a mechanics instructor at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

"There was no mechanical reason or electronic reason for (the crash) to have occurred," testified Sunley.

The officer said it was much more likely that Supernault's feet simply slipped on the pedals as the Jeep was tilted. He surmised the driver's right foot had become wedged between the gas and the brake.  

"It's very, very likely," said Sunley.

"He may have thought that he was perfectly in the right place but his feet were in the wrong position and the car (was) in the forward gear."

John Green said even though his own family's loss is irreparable, the accident could have been much worse.

"We lost a lot," he said. "Our life is entirely different."

He told Judge Jody Moher that such events should be required to carry specific insurance. That would force potential sponsors to consider risk to the public in advance, he suggested.

"If event insurance was in place, this impromptu demonstration would not have taken place."  

Sunley said he thought the city should enact a bylaw restricting the movement of vehicles at such shows where the public has access.

"If there is going to be movement there needs to be a physical barrier in place."

— Follow Bob Weber on Twitter at @row1960