Dempster crashes pose safety questions

by Glenn Taylor
Northern News Services

INUVIK (Aug 29/97) - Two separate accidents on the same corner of the Dempster Highway last week left one dead, another injured, and questions about the safety of the highway.

An Italian couple touring the North met tragedy on the Dempster last weekend, when the car they were driving rolled into the ditch, killing the female passenger.

Alessandra Di Corato, 34, died on Aug. 23, when her husband, Giuseppe Galantuomo, 35, lost control of their vehicle and rolled into the ditch. Di Corato was thrown during the rollover, and was then pinned under the vehicle. A medical team dispatched from Fort McPherson pronounced Di Corato dead at the scene.

The accident occurred on a winding downhill corner about three kilometres south of the Peel River.

Three days earlier at the same corner on Aug. 20, an Edmonton family was travelling to Inuvik, when their 1986 Plymouth Horizon lost control and plummeted into the ditch. The eight-year-old son of driver Nadine Jerome, 27, was thrown through the back window during the rollover, but luckily suffered only minor cuts and bruises. Jerome and her 47-year-old mother, Mavis Jerome of Whitehorse, were not injured, nor were Jerome's other children, a nine-year-old and a one-year-old.

The Department of Transportation launched an investigation last weekend to determine whether the corner is safely marked and graded for highway travel. According to acting superintendent Michael Conway, unsafe driving and not road conditions were responsible for both accidents.

"Our project staff were sent to determine whether the road conditions may have led to the accidents," said Conway. "But we found that the signage (and road conditions) were up to national standards."

Conway said before drivers reach that corner, they are greeted by a number of road signs, including one warning of the coming corner, and another advising drivers to slow for the turn ahead. Following signs then call for reduced speeds and again warn of the impending corner.

The road conditions were also not a factor in the crashes, said Conway. "The road conditions there were very good," he said. "The road there had been recently reconstructed to the proper design standards ... it was a very good section of highway."

Fort McPherson RCMP Sgt. Bob Gray agreed that the road was in "good normal driving condition" last week. "The people were just driving too fast."