Family opens up about tragic death of Oxford bus driver

It has been more than 10 months since East Zorra-Tavistock resident David Stewart died in a collision with an OPP cruiser driven by Det. Const. Steven Tourangeau.

The police officer also lost his life as a result of the collision, which took place on May 29 at the intersection of Oxford roads 33 and 59, which have since seen traffic-safety improvements.

The probe was done by the London Police Service and led by Det. Insp. Alex Krysgman, who said they have no intention of releasing the findings, but they did share some details with the Stewart family. The family wants the public to know what happened.

Wendy Stewart – David’s wife – her four daughters and a grandson agreed to sit down with the Gazette to talk about the day of the accident, the subsequent police investigation and the results. Those details have not been released to the public but were given verbally to the family, which recorded the meeting. The family said Krygsman gave his permission, and the audio was shared with the Gazette.

The story now turns to the investigation, handled by the London Police Service, after OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique asked them to assist. Krygsman was the officer in charge and was assisted by Dave Brazier, an Ontario Provincial Police Highway Safety Division Sergeant, and this is what they told the family.

“This has been a long time coming. I apologize for that,” Krygsman said in the audio recording. “We took the approach of no stone left unturned to try and get to the bottom of this. It’s taken some time.”

He added through the course of the investigation some checks and balances had to be signed off on before its completion and said he wanted to ensure the family had the trust of the investigators involved. The pair told the family they brought in an extensive and experienced team to find out what happened. A report of over 800 pages was written but police will not release it.

“The officer missed the stop sign. This is a cliché. It is what it is. He missed the stop sign. The question became for us is why. Six witnesses gave statements. The analysis gathered by experts trumps what witnesses would provide to us. The data from the technical perspective, I think, is black and white. It doesn’t have a perspective. More weight is given to the data and the forensic evidence,” said Krygsman.

He added police spent a significant amount of time to see if the sun was a factor in the collision. He went to the scene the next morning at the same time the collision occurred.

“I think it’s safe to say while the sun was bright, there was a stop-sign warning ahead. Was the sun a factor in this where he couldn’t see what was coming? Based on the analysis, the officer involved could have seen (the signs) but didn’t and that’s the mystery.”

Three cell phones were recovered from the scene. One was Stewart’s and the other two came from Tourangeau’s car.

“None of the cell phones provided any indication whatsoever that they were being looked at, holding the phone going down the road.”

Krygsman added neither driver suffered any type of medical episode nor were there any findings in toxicology screens.

The speed limits in the area at that time were 80 km/hr and police say Tourangeau was travelling 110 km/hr five seconds before the collision.

“At the point of impact, (he) was travelling 87. The bus was traveling north between 89 and 92 km/hr.”

Krygsman admitted there was no way Stewart could have seen the car approaching the intersection until impact.

“The data shows that at the last second the officer applied the brakes hard and tried to avoid the collision, apparently by a hard left turn, but it was too late. Why the officer didn’t stop, we’ll never know.”

Krygsman said the officer was originally from Tecumseh, Ont. and was working with the OPP Perth County crime unit. His wife wasn’t sure if he knew the roads he was travelling.

“She was certain he was unfamiliar with the area but couldn’t say for sure. It was his first day on a new assignment. He was heading to the GTA on a special assignment. Could he have been preoccupied? Maybe. But this is my personal speculation,” added Krygsman.

Carrique did say the only thing they found was the officer’s phone showed he had Google Maps up with directions to where his meeting was being held in Toronto.

Krygsman added Tourangeau would be facing prosecution if he survived the collision.

“He would be charged with careless driving causing death and that would be the appropriate charge in my view. I don’t believe this reaches the threshold of a criminal, dangerous driving causing death, or criminal negligence causing death.”

What isn’t clear is if the officer would have been charged criminally or under the Highway Traffic Act. Criminal charges can be laid but only if a driver’s behaviour is particularly reckless.

Despite the family asking police to make it public, the collision report will not be released to the media or the public.

“I did check with our legal department and the rules under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOI) prevent us from sort of just releasing without limit reports and things like that (because of) the risk of inadvertently or maybe on purpose releasing private information,” said Krygsman.

He did say a copy could be requested from the OPP under the FOI.

Wendy recalled the painful morning when everything began as usual with her husband leaving home. But the day proved to be anything but normal. She left at 8 a.m. on her route to Hickson Public School and saw emergency crews rush by not knowing anything had happened.

“There was a message that came across my phone from Langs (Bus Lines) that Dave’s bus was under a 45-minute delay. I didn’t think anything of it and saw the ambulance head back towards the hospital. As I headed out the back door, the Ornge chopper went across too.”

Wendy said everything was normal until word came over the radio on the bus that Road 59 was closed at Line 33 because of an accident. Her grandson Owen was outside waiting for his grandpa to pick him up to head to Woodstock Huron Park School, the run David did before he picked up kids to take to Hickson.

“I did my run, and I don’t agree that (Langs) sent me out. On the way to Hickson, my phone kept ringing and when I listened to my voicemail, it was the cop that was sitting in my driveway. She said she was at my house so all the way back I’m thinking what just happened?”

Wendy’s normal route would have her drive down 59 past the accident scene, but police had closed the area off well before that. She believes the bus company knew her husband was in a collision but let her drive her route as normal.

“We heard Langs was out there shortly after the police. They had to know what had happened when they put his bus on a delay.”

Wendy no longer works for Langs.

When Wendy came home and saw the cruiser, she knew there was something amiss. She backed her bus in and afterward was told the news her husband lost his life in the collision.

“I started shaking and I knew something had happened to Dave. I got out of the bus and said this isn’t good. You’re standing in my driveway. She said Wendy, let’s go in the house and then she told me Dave was involved in the accident and two people were killed.”

Wendy’s first thought was the hope there weren’t any kids on the bus and, thankfully, that was the case. That’s when she found out her husband had passed away.

“There’s not a day that doesn’t go by when I don’t think about him,” she added.

The couple’s oldest daughter, Elizabeth, said she knew something was wrong when her mother called her at work, which was completely out of the ordinary.

“I am a teacher, so they would text me and say call me when you have a break. I had seen a post on CTV there was an accident on 59 and I texted (both my parents). I texted dad and it didn’t go through.”

Steven Tourangeau is listed on the Honour Roll at the Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial Ribbon Society in Ottawa as a fallen officer. The website states he died in a motor vehicle accident. Among the criteria is the deceased officer must have acted in good faith in doing everything that could have been reasonably expected. The family said it doesn’t sit well with them.

Wendy said the tight-knit family has decided to keep living their lives.

“We are going to try and pull our lives together and try to move on. What else can we do? Nothing is ever going to bring him back.”

The Gazette reached out to the London Police Service for an interview. They declined our request.

Lee Griffi, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wilmot-Tavistock Gazette