THUNDER BAY, Ont. – April 28 marks National Day of Mourning in Canada, to remember those who’ve lost their lives on the job. But for Jesse MacDonald, every day is a day of mourning.
He lost his brother Ken MacDonald in a truck crash Jan. 9, as he made his nightly run to Dryden, Ont., for Gardewine, hauling a load of batteries. Jesse MacDonald remembers the night vividly.
“He went out the door at 9 p.m. It was a Thursday night and Friday morning was payday. He was happy,” MacDonald told Today’s Trucking in a recent interview. “I woke up to 20 missed calls and he was gone.”
The brothers were close, and even lived together for the last 15 years. “We were like an old married couple,” Jesse joked.
Both were old-school truckers, though Jesse MacDonald was off on disability at the time of the tragedy. He said Ken, who would have turned 50 two-and-a-half-weeks after the crash, would come home from a shift and voice concern over the deteriorating driving skills he was seeing on Northern Ontario highways. Twice, he had his driver’s side mirror sheared from his cab by a truck that crossed into his lane. Jesse suggested he hang up the keys, but Ken wouldn’t hear of it.
“He loved his job,” said Jesse. “Two weeks before this, my dad was trying to talk him out of it because of the close calls. It was starting to scare my dad.”
According to the police report, MacDonald was traveling westbound on Hwy. 11/17 at 10:35 p.m. in his 2014 Peterbilt, when an eastbound 2018 Freightliner “strikes the guardrail on the eastbound shoulder…then travels across the road and strikes (MacDonald) in the westbound lane.”
The truck that crossed the lane was driven by Karambir Singh. Both he and his driving partner Gurpreet Singh perished inside their truck as it burnt to the ground. Because of the fire, the ECU data was not retrievable from their truck, but MacDonald’s showed he had slowed to 50 km/h and pulled up against the guardrail. He was a sitting duck as the Freightliner crossed into his lane.
“My brother drove that highway for 30 years back and forth to Dryden every night – not even a speeding ticket. Killed by two young guys like that.”Jesse MacDonald
Karambir Singh was 24 years old, and Gurpreet Singh just 23. Both had an A/Z licence. But MacDonald feels they lacked the experience necessary to run Northern Ontario’s winding roads in winter. During the investigation he learned they had just six months of experience. “Not even a winter under their belt,” he said.
He can’t help but feel angry. He shares a newspaper article with the words “Look what these idiots did to you. Why, why, why, Ken, why?” scrawled across it.
“My brother drove that highway for 30 years back and forth to Dryden every night – not even a speeding ticket. Killed by two young guys like that,” he said. “When I drove, I drove in town three years before I even got the chance to go on the highway. The same with my brother. My brother died because of two guys who, as far as I’m concerned, should never have been on the highway.”
More than three months after the crash, MacDonald admits he’s still angry. He said it has nothing to do with the ethnicity of the other drivers, but rather their lack of experience and a system that would let them run cross-country in winter with so little experience. He even blames the guardrails, for preventing his brother from ditching the truck and potentially saving three lives. He has had little success looking into the backgrounds of the younger drivers. Their truck and trailer were registered to Toronto-area leasing companies.
A GoFundMe set up by their friend Jobanpreet Singh Bhullar has raised more than $37,000 to help the victims’ parents get their bodies sent back to India. In an interview with the Brampton Guardian following the crash, Singh Bhullar expressed his own sorrow.
“I tried calling Karambir, thinking ‘It’s okay, someone used his picture by a mistake,’” Singh Bhullar told the paper of his reaction on hearing about the crash. “I tried calling, but when it went to his voicemail, I was a little scared. Then I went to his home … It’s a big loss for us.”
Today’s Trucking reached out to Singh Bhullar but wasn’t able to arrange an interview.
MacDonald also set up a GoFundMe campaign to support Ken’s parents. It has raised $10.
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