KAMLOOPS, B.C. - When a B.C. mental patient jumped in front of Ron Lothamer's truck on June 22, 2000, he had no idea the dramatic impact it would have not only on his life, but also his livelihood.Now...
OVER THE EDGE: When a person decides to end their life by jumping in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer, the real victim is left to pick up the pieces and ask questions that can’t be answered: It’s the trucker.Photo by Brandi Cramer
REPAIRED: While Lothamer’s truck has been fixed his psyche is still scarred.
NOT VICTIMLESS: The impact of the accident cracked Lothamer’s tractor.
BLAMELESS: The B.C. government is unwilling to even discuss how the longtime mental patient ended up in front of Lothamer’s rig.
Photo by Brandi Cramer
KAMLOOPS, B.C. – When a B.C. mental patient jumped in front of Ron Lothamer’s truck on June 22, 2000, he had no idea the dramatic impact it would have not only on his life, but also his livelihood.
Now, more than a year after the incident, the Edmonton-based owner/operator is still looking for answers. Why was a ward of the B.C. government wandering around alone and unsupervised on the Trans-Canada Highway? Why would a mental health patient with a history of suicide attempts be let out of an institution in the first place? And why is nobody stepping forward and taking responsibility for the accident that left one man dead, and another forever scarred by the tragic memories?
As Lothamer comes to terms with what happened at 7:30 a.m. on that clear June morning, he also struggles to recoup the financial losses the ‘accident’ has cost him.
There was a $5,000 deductible for the damage done to his rig. Two weeks of downtime running another $5,000. Not to mention a stack of other bills resulting from everything from legal fees to a visit with a psychologist.
But after exploring all his options and being refused help everywhere he turns, Lothamer’s frustrations are mounting.
“I fall through all the cracks,” he says. “I’ve talked to my lawyer in Edmonton and one in Kamloops, and they say I don’t have much of a leg to stand on because the B.C. government will spend $100,000 in legal fees to save $10,000.”
Laurie Wood is one of the lawyers who Lothamer turned to for assistance. The Edmonton-based attorney says the problem lies in finding who is accountable for releasing the victim.
“This individual that decided to commit suicide using Mr. Lothamer’s truck was a mental health patient of some long standing, from what I understand, and as a result of that, somebody, somewhere decided to release him,” says Wood. “The concern is who was responsible for putting this man on the street so that he could cause these types of damages?”
So far, that question has eluded both Lothamer and his legal team.
And because the accident occurred in B.C., Wood is handcuffed as to what legal action she can pursue.
“Because the injury occurred in B.C. and the mental health patient is from B.C., it would appear it’s a B.C. problem and not an Alberta problem,” says Wood, noting that she would be better positioned to pursue damages if the accident happened in Alberta.
Lothamer says he is running out of options, but isn’t yet ready to give up the fight.
“I don’t feel I should be victimized the way I was, because there was no way I could avoid that accident,” says Lothamer.
When the accident occurred, police were already on their way, as another motorist had alerted them to a man dodging in and out of traffic.
When they arrived on the scene, they admitted the man was no stranger to them, and the police report indicates he had a history of suicide attempts.
In a previous incident, the police report indicates the victim slit his own throat. Another time, he showed up at a Saskatchewan golf course saying voices told him to travel north.
Lothamer is mystified as to why someone with such a long history of mental instability was freed from whichever institution housed him last.
“Who’s in charge of the mental health of the people of B.C.?” asks a frustrated Lothamer?
Lothamer’s emotional struggle to come to grips with the tragedy has been made more difficult by the lack of answers.
“I went to see a psychologist shortly after that, while my truck was still down, but what’s he going to do for me?” asks Lothamer. “I spoke with him once and that was it. I have to deal with this myself.”
But while some people choose to battle their demons alone, Dr. Shannon St. Pierre is a Calgary psychologist who says help is available for people suffering from the memories of a traumatic experience like Lothamer’s.
In fact, St. Pierre has helped several clients who suffered from similar incidents.
“We just start going through trauma techniques such as EMDR,” says St. Pierre.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (or EMDR as it is commonly known) is a procedure that involves concentrating on a troubling memory while moving the eyes rapidly back and forth following the therapist’s finger movements.
It’s a process occurring naturally while dreaming, and it is believed to help victims through the healing regiment.
“It decreases the intensity of the memory,” claims St. Pierre.
By confronting the memory through this procedure, it is believed the client is better prepared to cope with the aftereffects.
But even if he comes to grips with the emotional results of the incident, that still doesn’t put the money he is out back into his bank account. And, the B.C. Mental Health Department hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with information.
When contacted by Truck News, a B.C. Ministry of Health spokesperson initially promised an interview on health policies from the “Minister of State.”
However, the government later reneged on the promise and said the minister couldn’t grant an interview on the subject.
No reason was given as to the sudden change of heart, but Lothamer hopes going public with the incident will pressure those responsible to come forward into the spotlight and help him heal.