No charges will be laid in a crash that killed a Waterloo County dairy farmer on a cross-country tour last summer.
Last July, Bettina Schuurmans, 55, was travelling to British Columbia with her husband, Henk, in an open-cab John Deere 6430 tractor when the tractor was rear-ended by a semi-truck trailer just outside Saskatoon on July 9. Bettina was killed. Henk suffered a broken right pelvis, fractured his left pelvis and has since recovered from his injuries.
Saskatchewan RCMP said there was no likelihood the evidence would show the tractor trailer driver was in violation of criminal or provincial traffic laws. The accident occurred on a sunny day on a straight, clear highway. The tractor had flags, a slow-moving vehicle sign, flashing lights and a life-size plastic cow attached to the back as it proceeded in the westbound lane.
Henk told Farmers Forum that he was surprised by the decision as a coroner’s report released in January said the accident was caused by the truck.
While Henk didn’t want the driver to necessarily get jail time, he thinks the truck driver should have been charged with something. Lesser charges often come with a six-month statute of limitations.
“This is going to be with him for the rest of his life,” said Henk. “Nobody is happy with the outcome. And it’s so tragic that this happened.”
The couple was on what they called the Canadian Milk Tour to teach non-farmers about the supply management system. Henk completed the tour late last year with two of his daughters in a pickup truck, making the trek to British Columbia and the east coast.
“The trip ended so tragically, I thought for my family and myself, that I had to finish this trip,” he said. “We got really good support from our local community, from farmers coast to coast, from people that heard about this accident. That really helped us get through this. It’s so cruel to come to an end like this, to not say goodbye. It’s very difficult.”
Henk’s three sons have taken over the farm at Elmira where they were milking 200 cows last summer, although Henk remains on-call for relief milking.