Events leading to crash that killed woman and child were set in motion by misread licence plate

Winnipeg police were trying to pull over the driver of a pickup truck involved in a crash that killed a mother and baby in September 2020 based on a mistaken licence plate reading, a report from Manitoba’s police watchdog says. 

Meanwhile, the driver, Armand Joseph Jr. Chartrand, told investigators he sped away from police because his passenger was afraid of interacting with officers out of fear he was violating court orders. 

The collision happened on Sept. 26, 2020, when a pickup truck speeding away from Winnipeg police slammed into a van, killing Jennifer Dethmers and seriously injuring her 10-month-old son, Anthony. The child was rushed to hospital in critical condition, where he succumbed to his injuries weeks later.

Winnipeg police were cleared of any wrongdoing in January 2021, after a four month probe by the Independent Investigation Unit, which is mandated to investigate serious incidents involving police in the province. 

But the report generated by that investigation was just released this week, shedding light on what happened that tragic day. 

It says the afternoon of the accident, traffic officers first started following the truck after its licence plate number didn’t have an active registration attached to it in their system.

Police officers at first attempted to pull it over by activating their emergency lights and sirens. 

At first the truck appeared to be coming to a stop, but then accelerated at a high rate of speed down Boyd Avenue to avoid police. 

However, officers involved in the incident said they decided to stop trying to pull the truck over after realizing they may have entered the wrong number into their system, and were only following it to make sure it didn’t get into a crash.

The report says video surveillance of the collision, GPS data, and speed readings from the police vehicles involved (which were between 54.7 to 56.3 km/h) support this assertion. 

It goes on to say that Chartrand failed to stop at a stop sign and was driving twice the legal speed limit when he slammed into the van carrying Dethmers and her son. 

“The driver of the pickup truck is solely responsible for the deaths and injuries that resulted,” the report says. 

After the collision happened last September, Chartrand was charged with dangerous driving causing death, causing death by criminal negligence and eight more counts relating to dangerous driving.

He was also charged with driving while suspended and driving without insurance.

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