National Day of Mourning hits home for those who’ve lost loved ones

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.

Ken MacDonald with his Peterbilt.

“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.

Ken MacDonald

“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.

Jesse MacDonald holds a picture of his late brother, Ken.
James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • It’s a sad state of affairs what has become the condition of the industry these days! And although a lot of the drivers blame it on ethnicity, it is more of a case of improper training on the part of the industry! It’s claimed that there is a driver shortage, but as someone who has been out here for over 40 years I can tell you that’s not the case! It’s a case of companies trying to run for maximum profits and pay ancient pay rates! With this comes the problem of experienced drivers vacating the industry and less experienced drivers willing to work for what they deem a decent wage compared to what they have been accustomed to! And so in lies the dilemma! Not being acknowledged by industry or government!! And the motoring public pays the price! So Sad and So Tragic!!

  • I AGREE WITH THIS 100% THIS CRAP ABOUT LETTING THESE GUYS WITH NO EXPERIENCE OR VERY LITTLE BEHIN THE WHEEL.I LIVE IN BC AND THE SAME GARBAGE IS GOING ON HERE THESE IDIOTS DRIVING UP AND DOWN THE FREEWAY AND ESPICALLY IN THE MOUNTAINS IN THE WINTER TIME.I FEEL SORRY FOR HIS BROTHER AND CAN FULLY UNDERSTAND HIS ANGER I TO HAVE BEEN DRIVING FOR A LONG TIME(40 YEARS) AND I SEE THE DETORATION OF THE NEW DRIVERS ON THE ROAD.I DON’T KNOW SOMETHING IS GOING TO BE DONE ABOUT THIS IN ALL THE PROVINCES ACROSS CANADA AND THE US AS WELL MAYBE SOME DAY SOMETHIG WILL BE DONE.I HOPE Mcdonald gets on with his life the best he cAN AND GOD BLESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • WOW!!! The GoFundMe page for the poor driver who did everything he could to avoid the wreck got a whole $10.00, but the driver with no winter experience, has $37000.00 in a GoFundMe page . How come that money is not split between all of the victims families.
    That is all I have to say about that.

  • It’s sad that we have to put our lives on the line because of someone else’s actions ! Sorry to all the family’s dealing with the aftermath of these heaness accidents.

  • Hope they don’t spend that $10.00 all
    at once. Terrible. A young man dies through no fault of his own and his family gets nothing but the dead guys going back rack up a fortune.
    I could say what I really feel but it would not get printed.

  • I would like to say Thank you for all the kind comments. Kenny would’ve wanted people to be aware about what is happening on the roads and the inexperience drivers out there.
    We can not continue to have these drivers on our roads.
    @JamesMenzies, thank you for a wonderful piece.