Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
GRAVENHURST — Pedestrians and motorists are moving and driving more carefully around town after the death of a local scooter operator here last week — and news yesterday that a woman has been charged in the fatal main street “accident.”
Bill Smith, 82, died Friday, May 19, while crossing Winewood Avenue at Muskoka Road North. Police say he was struck and the OPP are “investigating the two-vehicle collision involving a sport utility vehicle at 10 a.m.”
Smith was operating his mobility device before being transported to a Toronto area trauma centre where he died in hospital Monday.
Police said in a release Wednesday that a 35-year-old Gravenhurst woman has been charged with “an offence” under the Highway Traffic Act.
Const. Sam Bigley, told MuskokaTODAY.com Thursday: “The driver of the motor vehicle was charged with failing to yield to a pedestrian.
“As it is a provincial offence we will not be naming the driver. The rest of the details are investigative details and we won’t be releasing them.”
Bigley added: “There is only the provincial offence, (and) no we do not release their names with provincial offences only.
“She has a Provincial Offence Notice and has 14 days to respond. She may pay it or argue and want a trial date.”
Bigley said the driver was served a Part III summons, with a court date of July 20, 2023, in Bracebridge at the District of Muskoka court house at 70 Pine St.
A check of traffic offences on the province’s website shows that “failing to yield at pedestrian crosswalks, school crossings and crossovers, can lead to a $1,000 fine and 4 demerit points.”
Those actions — according to another previous unrelated Ontario news story involving a similar case — state such offences could also lead to a charge of careless driving, especially if they cause bodily harm or death to a pedestrian.
A large number of Ontario road fatalities in recent years involving pedestrians has the province offering motorists driving tips, including that “a driver, always be ready in case pedestrians make sudden or unexpected moves.”
It’s top tip?
“Pay special attention to pedestrians, especially when turning.”
‘Quite surprised, really’
Smith’s friend Eleanor Douglas said today: “I was quite surprised, really,” when asked about the charge.
She said his family told her police at first advised them there would be no charges.
And the family was OK with that, as they considered it an unfortunate “accident.”
They “acknowledge it was an accident,” Rev. Carol-Ann Chapman said Monday as she sat with Douglas while awaiting word on Smith’s condition in hospital the morning before he was taken off life support.
The Gravenhurst Trinity United Church minister said that the family told her and Douglas during a hospital visit Sunday, that: “It was just one of those things that happen. There’s no ill will.”
Douglas said this morning that while she hadn’t heard what the charge is, “I’m sure I will.
“I haven’t heard from his son (Jeff) in a couple of days. I think I will hear from him today,” regarding a funeral and cleaning out his district housing apartment at Lofty Pines.
“There’ll be someone on a waiting list for that apartment. There always are …. They need more of those facilities. No doubt about that.”
Douglas said she “feels sorry” for the driver of the SUV. “She’s going to have that on her plate the rest of her life. I just don’t really know how to think about it. I just feel really sorry for her.”
“Girlfriend and boyfriend” for about five years, Douglas said Smith’s passing was still a shock when she got the call from his family Monday afternoon, with the minister at her side consoling her.
“Yeah, it was.”
Said Douglas: “I was hoping … I didn’t want him to be in a bad way if he did live.”
Smith’s son, Jeff, said he heard his dad was heading north across Winewood and the driver was headed south on Muskoka Road. She turned left onto Winewood headed east. Both, the son believes, were at a red light and enterted the intersection at the same time.
Meanwhile, Douglas said that “I got a lot of support” from friends and neighbours, including at her James Street condo.
“I’ve had some people put cards at my door and phone me.”
Wednesday she went to the Active Living Centre where she was to meet Smith on the day of his accident and where the couple often socialized.
“I went to the Seniors yesterday. I had a lot of support there.
“I went to the shuffleboard. I just felt like — I like those people. And I knew they would (offer) support. So I went out — and yes I got a lot of hugs and people telling funny stories about Bill.
“So it was good for me to do that rather than sit at home and thinking.
“The seniors that were there were really good.”
Police ask anyone with information about the accident to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or crimestopperssdm.com.
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