By Connor Lynch
BELLEVILLE — It was a pitch-black night on an unlit road when the driver of a UPS courier truck slammed into a Black Angus steer, knocking the steer into a ditch.
The driver got away with only minor injuries and climbed out of the flipped-over cab at about 3 a.m. on Nov. 10. The UPS truck swerved sharply off the road after one of the front tires struck the animal. The truck itself cleared a steep ditch, but the two trailers it was hauling didn’t. They dropped into the ditch, flipping the truck.
The truck was a writeoff after grinding sideways through a flowerbed filled with landscaping stones. A several hundred-pound boulder ended up on the passenger seat.
The steer, not yet a yearling and perhaps 600 lb., was lying in the ditch, feet tucked under it. When Belleville fire chief Mark MacDonald arrived on scene, he first thought the steer was simply lying down. That is, until he saw its neck elongated and turned completely around.
The owner of the animal, an area farmer that MacDonald couldn’t name because of privacy laws, was not criminally charged but could be facing civil litigation from the UPS insurance company.
Ottawa-based agricultural lawyer Donald Good explained that when it comes to a civil case, it pays to have insurance. Not only will it cover any claim you’re liable for, but your court costs as well. Otherwise, a farmer without insurance would have to pay whatever the court calculates the losses to be, he said.
Good added that, in these kinds of cases, criminal charges are usually unlikely as they are more difficult to pursue, because they require proof of negligence.
MacDonald estimated the total cost of damages at $300,000 before adding in the loss of the goods being hauled. He added that it’s not the first time that the farmer has had an issue with livestock getting loose. OPP could not confirm if they had been made aware of any other incidents involving the farmer.
“There’s been a few occasions where his fencing practices have not been adequate to contain the herd,” said MacDonald, including one incident last year where an entire herd of goats ended up on Highway 37 after hopping through holes in a wire fence intended for cattle. MacDonald said that the farmer moved the goat herd after that.
MacDonald added that facing civil litigation is bad enough, but if it had been a fatal incident, the cost of criminal charges could mean losing the farm.
This incident could easily have been fatal, MacDonald said. “If there had been someone in the passenger’s side, he would not have survived. (The driver) was lucky to live.”