A 21-year-old Brandon man shouldn’t have been behind the wheel when the pickup truck he was driving plunged off a washed-out road near Dauphin, killing him.
According to court documents, Brett Natrasony was prohibited from driving due to a troublesome driving past when he crashed a 2011 Dodge Ram pickup truck into a cement embankment on Road 142 North southwest of Dauphin on Tuesday evening.
Pat McLaughlin, who lives metres from the washout, said her husband and son were working in the yard when they noticed the truck travelling at a high rate of speed toward a section of road washed out by strong currents on April 28.
"I saw the truck coming down the road and we saw him at the mile, and then the half mile, where some of the signage starts and we noticed that he wasn’t slowing down to stop at the sign," said McLaughlin’s son, who didn’t want to be named. "All of sudden I looked up again and I saw him go over the edge and I heard a really big bang in that split second."
There were two dirt bikes strapped to the box of the truck prior to it plunging off the 15-foot drop, he said.
"I saw a dirt bike all of a sudden come flying out, twirling in the air," he added. "As soon as the truck went over the edge, you couldn’t see anything and you had to be within about 10 feet of where the culvert washed out to even see anything."
The family called emergency services, but McLaughlin’s son, who is familiar with the area, knew it wasn’t going to be a good scene.
"There used to be a bridge there where the culvert washed away, so all that is left is a cement embankment on the other side, and that’s what he hit," he said.
It’s a tragic end for Natrasony, who had a checkered past on the road.
In December 2010, Natrasony was convicted of impaired driving and banned from driving for 16 months.
One year later, he was caught driving while disqualified and received an additional driving ban.
Then, about one year ago, he survived a spectacular crash in Brandon, which he was later charged for.
In the early morning of June 15, 2012, a Ford pickup truck was heading east at high speed in the 1500-block of Stickney Avenue when it left the road.
The truck hit a concrete embankment, a staircase and a hydro pole, cutting power to a 24-unit Manitoba Housing development with damage estimated at $10,000 to $15,000.
Natrasony faced several charges, most notably dangerous driving causing bodily harm and impaired driving causing bodily harm.
Those charges relate to an 18-year-old woman who was riding in the truck. She was hospitalized after the crash, but treated and released.
During the collision, Natrasony was thrown from the truck and sent to the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg with critical, life-threatening injuries.
About four months later, after recovering from the crash, he was charged with a hit-and-run in a separate incident.
Police said Natrasony was driving a pickup truck on Nov. 25, 2012 when he got in a collision outside the Royal Oak Inn and Suites, just as Houstons bar was closing.
While police never specified what Natrasony collided with, he was charged with failing to remain at the scene of a collision, impaired driving and driving while disqualified.
Further trouble came on Jan. 9, 2013 when he was accused of driving an unregistered pickup truck while disqualified and without insurance.
Following the January incident, he was released on condition that he not drive any motor vehicle.
Natrasony was still pending on all of the above charges as his next court date was scheduled for June 17.
His crash was the second death involving washed-out sections of road this week.
On June 1, Greg Miller, 46, of Dauphin died after the grain truck he was driving ran into a section of washed-out road in the RM of Hillsburg.
Reports from RCMP suggest that warning signs were moved or displaced on Road 150 West near Grandview.
The two crashes are especially tough for McLaughlin, as both men grew up in the area and were known to her.
"It’s absolutely devastating," she said, adding that Natrasony’s mother lives just a few miles down the road.
"He was familiar with the road so I just don’t know if he didn’t know it was washed out or what happened," McLaughlin said.
In the first collision, according to McLaughlin, Miller wasn’t familiar with the gravel road he was driving on.
McLaughlin said the Miller family are their neighbours.
RCMP said that missing warning signs may have played a role in that accident.
For McLaughlin, signs and barricades aren’t enough. She believes the Department of Infrastructure and Transportation needs to do more to ensure safe roadways.
"On Tuesday, (workers from the Department of Infrastructure and Transportation) put up better signs, more stable signs so that the wind can’t blow them over," McLaughlin said. "They added signs on our road, but that was only after (the first driver) lost his life."
She wants action on the washed-out section before someone else gets hurt.
"Signs don’t save lifes — culverts and bridges do," McLaughlin said. "They put up the same signs for a two-foot washout as they do for a 15-foot washout."
Lance Vigfusson, assistant deputy minister for the department, said the culverts near McLaughlin’s home were found mangled downstream after water ravaged the area from a late spring melt. He said fixing the washed-out culverts is a priority.
"There is a lot of engineering that has to go on before we can get to the construction phase and that’s where we are at right now," he said.
The work will be contracted out once the engineering reports are finished, he said, although he couldn’t confirm a concrete start or finish date for construction.
He also said there was adequate signage indicating the culverts were out and that the road was closed.
Vigfusson said the culvert in the first collision wasn’t the province’s responsibility.
RCMP continue to investigate both collisions, but answers could take months.