Inquiry probes road deaths of teen actors

Father pushed for coroner's inquest; Jaclyn Linetsky and Vadim Schneider, both 17, died in accident on Highway 10 in Brossard


Published: Tuesday, February 28 2006

After Jaclyn Linetsky died tragically in a horrific road accident almost three years ago, her father went to great lengths to find out the circumstances of her death.

"We didn't get any information whatsoever," said Larry Linetsky, whose daughter was once the English voice of the popular television cartoon character Caillou.

The girl's father hired private investigators and pressed the Quebec coroner's office for an inquiry. "I was told there was a quarter of one per cent chance of getting an inquest," he said.

Despite the daunting odds, Linetsky found himself in a Longueuil courtroom yesterday for the start of a public inquiry into his daughter and Vadim Schneider's deaths.

The two actors, both 17, were being driven to St. Cesaire to the set of a new television program on Sept. 8, 2003, when their Dodge Grand Caravan veered off Highway 10 in Brossard as it travelled east and collided with a tractor-trailer in the oncoming lane.

Surete du Quebec Constable Bernard Ouellet, who specializes in accident reconstruction, used a diagram and toy model vehicles to illustrate how the accident unfolded.

The two left wheels of the minivan carrying the teenage actors veered into the grass median, causing the first skid, Ouellet said.

The van went back into its lane but driver Frederik Jougla over-corrected, Ouellet speculated, causing the vehicle to skid again. The driver lost control and veered off the road to the left, sliding sideways across the median, Ouellet said.

Ouellet said he saw no signs of braking. There was also no indication the minivan was travelling at excessive speed, he said. Witnesses said the van was travelling about 110 kilometres an hour. The speed limit on the highway is 100 kilometres an hour.

"When I saw him he was coming out of the median," said Joel Bayard, who was driving the tractor-trailer in the westbound lane. Bayard made the remark in response to a question by Linetsky. As an "interested person" at the inquiry, Linetsky is allowed to ask questions.

Bayard said he visited Jougla in the hospital three days after the accident. When Linetsky asked the trucker if Jougla had told him he fell asleep at the wheel of the minivan, however, coroner Andree Kronstrom intervened. She told Linetsky the best witness to answer that question is Jougla, who is scheduled to testify before the inquiry today.

Jougla was in the courtroom yesterday with his lawyer.

Bayard testified that he tried to brake upon impact. He was injured in the crash and spent nine months off work.

Pictures of the mangled van were shown during Suzanne Tylko's analysis of the accident. Tylko is a mechanical engineer who heads a Transport Canada division that does crashworthiness research. She said the truck sideswiped the minivan, then hit its wheel well, causing the van to spin with tremendous force.

The eastbound lane of Highway 10 had recently been paved and the weather was sunny that day, the inquiry heard. Ouellet also testified that neither vehicle involved in the crash appeared to have had mechanical problems.

Outside the courtroom Linetsky said: "I know one thing: When (the inquest) ends we'll have more information than we had at the beginning."

The inquiry is being held to determine the circumstances of the accident and potentially to make safety recommendations.