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Rookie RCMP Constable Killed in Crash

Rookie RCMP Constable Killed in Crash

RCMP Const. Chelsey Alice Robinson shown in a supplied handout. The RCMP officer was killed in a crash on Highway 16 and Range Road 15 near Stony Plain, Alta, early Monday.

The Toronto Sun via YellowBrix

June 24, 2010

EDMONTON – A 25-year-old Mountie just seven months on the job is dead following a head-on collision Monday near Stony Plain.

Const. Chelsey Robinson died in hospital Monday after her cruiser collided with a semi-trailer carrying a load of pipes. The trucker was also taken to hospital but is expected to survive.

Robinson has the tragic distinction of becoming the 50th Alberta Mountie to die in the line of duty since 1876 – and the 15th to lose her life in a traffic collision.

The thunderous crash was so violent that it knocked nearby resident Ralph Heighton out of bed.

“I thought a train had hit our house,” a subdued Heighton said Monday, still shaken by the blast.

“This is a dangerous intersection. There’ve been five or six fatalities over the last 20 years, but by far this was the biggest and the loudest.”

According to Assistant Commissioner Peter Hourihan, Robinson was responding to a report of an impaired driver travelling in the wrong direction on the Yellowhead Highway about 12:45 a.m.

Robinson was headed north on Range Road 15 and the semi was headed east on the Yellowhead. The intersection is controlled by a stop sign on the Range Road.

Hourihan said the vehicles collided at 90-degree angle, the semi rolled into the median and burst into flames. Miraculously, the trucker was able to get himself out of the wreck before it was engulfed.

Because it’s still under investigation, Hourihan said, few details were available. Police were still trying to determine if Robinson’s lights and sirens were on.

However, he emphasized that the trucker was not the suspected impaired driver. That vehicle was never found.

The truck’s load of massive metal pipes – a metre in diameter and 10 metres long – flew in all directions for several hundred metres.

“I’m amazed no one else was killed,” said Heighton, who drives trucks for the City of Edmonton.

Heighton, who lives about 100 metres from the intersection, had just gone to bed and was drifting off the sleep when the vehicles slammed into each other.

He ran outside and saw a wall of black smoke and flames clawing toward the sky.

“I didn’t even know a police car was involved. I couldn’t see it,” he said.

“Within minutes, the flames grew to more than 20 feet.”

Heighton did not hear any screeching tires before the explosion, which was loud enough to wake neighbours nearly a kilometre from the crash.

“The bang was unbelievable,” he said.

The following morning at RCMP K-Division headquarters in Edmonton, Hourihan struggled to contain his emotions, his voice cracking as he recounted the calamity.

“It’s so tragic when someone young dies this way,” he said.

For police, Alberta’s highways are one of the deadliest places.

“Traffic, although it might seem a normal course of duty that seems rather unassuming, it can be anything but,” Hourihan said. “All police work takes a lot of concentration and anything can happen at any time. A split second can make a complete difference. It’s a significant factor in all that we do and all that we train for.”

Mounties in Alberta are much more likely to die in a crash than at the hands of a killer. RCMP data shows that since 1946, 15 officers have died in crashes. Over the same time period only 10 Alberta Mounties have been slain, four of whom fell in the same murderous spree in Mayerthorpe on March 3, 2005.

Robinson, who grew up in Picture Butte near Lethbridge, was married with no children.

Prior to joining the force, she earned a degree in forensic science at the University of Toronto. While studying, she did an internship with the RCMP’s forensic identification unit.

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Taniguchi said Mounties are working with her family on funeral arrangements.

Heighton’s heart goes out to her family and colleagues.

“Hopefully they can make some sense of this tragedy.”

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