Featured

SHOULDER CHECKS ARE EVERYTHING!

Just like in contact sports, SHOULDER CHECKS ARE EVERYTHING!

“Why do I have to shoulder check?” I’m so glad you asked. There are well over 1 million reasons to shoulder check but we will just look at a few. We have to do shoulder checks for lane changes, highway merging, rolling turns, and stopped turns, and even highway off ramps. It’s pretty much the only cause of accidents on 2 lane divided highways.

Purcells Cove Road propane truck crash kills 49-year-old cyclist

Cyclists really appreciate it when drivers checked their right shoulder before making a turn. Remember that cyclists ride as fast as cars sometimes so you could have one in your passenger side blind spot as you slow down to turn right. Checking your shoulder saves them and you a whole lot of drama. One of my students is a cyclist. He told me on his first lesson that he didn’t understand the point of shoulder checks. Then, he was nearly run over by a driver not checking their right shoulder and on the very next lesson he says, “I understand shoulder checks now”.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/purcells-cove-serious-crash-1.3260118

Make shoulder checking a habit.

Cyclist Post
https://www.facebook.com/groups/HalifaxCycleChat/permalink/2349416721877101/

“I want to pass a good experience this evening. I was on almond street heading home 🏡 from the Chain of lake trail. It was around 4pm. A black truck pick up with a gentleman was driving . He was behind me I was trying to ride pretty fast not to hold him up. We got to shopper’s I was going straight he was turning. He never tried to pass me a few did close but not him. When we were both at the light I said thanks so much for staying back and not trying to pass in tight spots. He said my safety was more important than that . My heart ❤ warmed when he said that I thank him. 😊 what a great guy.”

Collision Compilation 

Nearly every collision in this video is due to drivers not shoulder checking. We watch lots of these videos in class so that we can learn from other people’s mistakes.

If you aren’t sure why shoulder checks are important, then you should go to YouTube right now and look at motorcycle riders and or cyclists. They both shoulder check religiously so they always know what hazards are around them. Motorcyclists and cyclists spend most of their time on the road avoiding drivers who don’t shoulder check and their heads are constantly moving; “Head on a swivel” as they say.

Motorcyclists know better than anyone, how important it is to shoulder check

Crosshatch Shoulder Check

This will happen to you, I promise.

Why It’s Important To Shoulder Check Blindspot Check

Would you come out of the corner with the puck without checking over your shoulder?No, because you would get smoked by another player!

NHL Hardest Hits Part 1

The one thing new drivers fear most is shoulder checks, because they involve turning your head while holding the wheel in its current position while moving forward, which is not natural for your brain. The more comfortable you become with shoulder checks, the more you will spot hidden hazards around you. This will make your driving experience much safer, making your drive more enjoyable.

Passing

Make sure to only turn your head, not your whole body, and avoid cutting the steering wheel sharply. Gradual is the name of the game at high speeds such as on the highway.

360 Camera – Shoulder Checks

How To Change Lanes And Shoulder Check

How to merge onto the highway like a boss!

You need a chill playlist. I recommend a ‘Superchill playlist’ like this one.

A Complete Introduction to Defensive Driving For Beginners – Part 1

A Complete Introduction to Defensive Driving For Beginners – Part 2

Featured

Being Focused While Driving

When it comes to distracted driving, nobody drives distracted. Seriously, ask anyone you know and they will tell you that they never would drive distracted. However, the number of collisions and accidents keeps rising and many times drivers don’t even remember how the crash began.

Even with all of the latest and greatest vehicle technology that is intended to keep people safe, the number of fatal accidents keeps increasing. I would argue that some of that can be attributed to drivers now having less to think about while driving, since a lot of newer cars will check your blind spot and even keep you from driving off of the road. In my opinion, safety technology in newer cars is actually dangerous in some ways because it allows a driver to not have to think about certain aspects of driving. Fully automated vehicles are ideal for safety, but half automated vehicles (like what we have now) are deceivingly dangerous, and the numbers reflect that.

Think of the football as your cell phone. The linebacker who is coming to ‘take your head off’ represents another car. This is what happens when you try to catch a ball (using a cell phone) while in traffic (running across the middle). You will end up tuning into or devoting all of your attention to the ball (the phone) and will then become unaware of the dangers around you. The below video illustrates this quite well, and keep in mind that these are humans hitting other humans. Cars hitting humans is a whole other level of trauma.

This is what happens when you don’t shoulder check.

Biggest, Baddest Football Hits Ever

Driving while tired is the most dangerous form of impaired driving as the injuries are always more severe.

Human Factors

Vision types

  • Peripheral Vision – It detects movement, masses and shapes
  • Field of Vision – The 180 degree view in front
  • Depth Perception – Helps you judge distance

Another huge aspect of distracted driving is stress. Stress ruins everything, including driving. When someone is stressed and they are sitting at a red light waiting for it to change, they will be more likely to make a bad decision and start checking their phone, but if they weren’t stressed it is less likely that they would do that. Good decisions are made when people are not panicked or stressed.

The Slow Motion Effect

Why Time Slows Down During an Accident – When it is important for our survival, it helps if the outside world slows down so that we have more time to react, to hazards. Because everything seems to slow down in the world, we see and hear more details of what is happening, which leads to the feeling that the event lasted longer than it actually did.

We All Have Mental Health

Why Sleep Matters | Matthew Walker | Talks at Google

The Dunning–Kruger effect

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a hypothetical cognitive bias stating that people with low ability at a task overestimate their own ability, and that people with high ability at a task under estimate their own ability.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

It’s always when these unexpected or stressful moments arise that bad things happen. Most people would never drive drunk, but put them in a situation and that could easily change.

Is the Driving Test Harder if you’re Dyslexic?

ADHD Driving Tips & Precautions 🚘⚠️

Example of people who wouldn’t normally drive drunk, but who are then put into a situation where they have to decide

In 2015 there were 4 teens in Beaverbank who were at a house party late at night and needed a ride home. Halifax being Halifax, they couldn’t get a cab. So this situation, which the teens weren’t expecting presented itself and they had to figure out what to do at 2 a.m. while drunk in the middle of no where. This is how most of these tragic stories start out. Something unexpected presents itself and that’s the key moment when a person need to make a good decision. ‘Final Destination’ is always going to be one bad decision away.

Driving is like the movie Final Destination

In this case, one of the teens volunteered to drive while drunk and everyone hopped into the car. The car flipped multiple times ejecting everyone but the driver. Two people died, a third was severely injured.

But tragedies and the darkness that comes with them cut far deeper than just the victims and their families. The teen who was driving could not live with himself and eventually took his own life. This is very common and of course never reported. These teens did not want to have a tragic night, the driver did not want to kill his friends, but when they were presented with a ‘curve ball’ of a situation they made a bad decision.

Planning ahead for partying and other fun activities is essential in order to avoid getting struck out by a ‘curve ball’. Somewhat like if I am driving down the street and a hazard presents itself, if I have been looking and thinking ahead I will have already been expecting this and will be ready to react. And if I am already driving at a safe speed even before encountering the hazard that makes it easy to react to. But, if I am stressed or distracted and not thinking ahead, the curve ball or unexpected situation has a better chance of getting me.

Cognitive Distraction – Full Video

Dangers of Texting While Driving

Why Distracted Driving Campaigns Often Don’t Work

Over the past decade, there have been many distracted driving campaigns that boil things down to absolutes. “War on distracting driving!” “Put down that phone.” Distracted Driving is a serious problem that is killing thousands of people.

https://drivingintherealworld.com/why-distracted-driving-campaigns-often-dont-work/

Halifax ranks last in safe driving study

In its ninth annual Safe Driving Study, Allstate Canada found Halifax had the highest collision frequency. Halifax has claimed the title of Canadian collision capital for the third year in a row.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/halifax-canadian-cities-study-vehicle-collisions-1.4414082

The below video is the best video about distracted driving I have ever seen. Instead of using lame one liners or traumatizing photos, this PHD who spends his life studying distracted driving, uses science and data. This is the kind of progressive approach that is needed in order to educate and not scare new drivers into doing or not doing something.

Distraction is literally killing us | Paul Atchley

Stress is a major cause Distracted Driving

Stress factors such as negative mood, and anger, can lead to risky driving situations. Chronic stress is also a dangerous stress type that can affect the driving behaviour as it impacts the driver’s physical and mental state.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/341266358_Driver_Distraction_and_Stress_Detection_Systems_A_Review

Road Rage!

Road Rage can lead to a suspended drivers license or loss of a job, as well as legal problems. Many drivers do not recognize when their own aggressive road rage is affecting their behavior.

Never brake check a tailgater – Brake checking a tailgater will sometimes make them more enraged. It’s better to let off of the accelerator pedal as they will notice your vehicle slowing and will wonder what in the heck you are doing, and then they will just pass you. That being said, also note that many drivers follow too closely and don’t actually realize it.

Types of Road Rage

  • Level 1 – Quiet Road Rage
  • Level 2 – Verbal Road Rage
  • Level 3 – Confrontational Road Rage
  • Level 4 – Epic Road Rage

A key aspect of defensive driving and keeping traffic flowing safely is communicating. Think about it, we drive in and around hundreds of vehicles everyday so it is critical for us to communicate with each other. The unfortunate thing is our vehicles only have two built in ways to communicate. We can use our signal lights to alert other road users of our intentions, and we also have a horn. The problem with the horn is it has only one setting; MAD. But sometimes a driver just wants to give someone a friendly toot of the horn to say “thanks”. Always think twice before honking your horn. You never know who is in the vehicle you are honking at, or what they might be carrying.

Communicating in cars

Volvo newest safety feature: communicating with others cars 

Impaired Driving

Your first DUI can cost $20,000 or more, even without property damage or injuries and could reach $40,000. A DUI conviction can also lead to the loss of a job. The conviction may remain on the offender’s record for 10 years.

https://www.bactrack.com/blogs/expert-center/35042565-the-high-cost-of-a-dui

Body cam video shows DUI arrest of woman after friend dies jumping from her car

Party Safely – Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms: What to do if you have alcohol overdose

Extremely dangerous “Shady 8” opioid making the rounds

Between March 28 and April 20, Cumberland County RCMP responded to three overdoses where in each case RCMP had to administer Narcan to counteract the effects of the overdose. Each person was then taken to hospital by ambulance. In all three cases, the drug that was used is known as “Shady 8”. Shady 8 is a form of Fentanyl, a powerful opioid, which comes in the form of a white or green pill or tablet.

https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/health-officials-warn-of-fentanyl-on-p-e-i-following-2-overdoses-in-24-hours-1.5961471

Opioid and Narcotics Overdose Signs and Symptoms

Thinking Ahead

A Complete Introduction to Defensive Driving For Beginners – Part 1

Featured

Nova Scotia Road Tests and Routes

On this page we will look at road tests and routes. The routes themselves will always change depending on the day and examiner, but these are the common areas. Note that these areas are around Halifax, Nova Scotia. The most important thing on test day is to have your vehicle permit, insurance card, driving school certificate, and beginner’s permit, but most of all you need to be chill. It’s completely normal to be nervous but remember that you have put in the work and practiced for months. Now it’s time to show the examiner that you know how to drive.

A little bit of music at a low volume is excellent for practicing driving. You have to be relaxed when learning to drive.

Note: The examiners don’t always take you on the highway. They mix the routes up a bit here and there, but the key to passing these tests is to have practiced a solid amount and just to be generally familiar with the area you are testing in. If you don’t want to wait 6 months (current wait time) for a road test, then call Access NS at 1-902-424-5200 option 1-2-1 as often as possible to check for cancelations. They pick up right away most of the time, it’s quite impressive compared to many other call centers. One example: I needed to book a road test and the earliest I could find when I called was Dec 21 2022. I called back ten minutes later and now have a road test next week.

Dartmouth Road test (will update this video soon)

Some tips from other student’s mistakes

  • Stop gradually – If you approach a stop sign or red light too fast the examiner could think that you are not going to stop and they could automatically fail you.
  • Examiner hitting the brake pedal – If you test in your driving school’s vehicle, then remember that if the examiner hits the brake pedal the test is over and is an automatic fail. You want that examiner to feel relaxed.
  • You are a limo driver – You should think of the driving examiner as a V.I.P. that is holding an overfull cup of water and you don’t want him or her to spill any of it. So you accelerate gradually and brake gradually.
  • Always, always, always, stay in the right lane – Many students get so use to the examiner telling them which way to go and what to do that they forget to go back into the right lane after making a left turn onto a two lane boulevard. If you are driving on a one lane road which then splits into two lanes, you always, always go into the right lane unless the examiner says you are turning left. The examiner won’t tell you this because they are trying to see what you do. You are always in the right lane unless the examiner says you are turning left.

Hand Over Hand Steering

The Critical Parts Of Your Test

Pretty much anything that is critical on the test is going to start with the letter S.

  • Shoulder Checks – anytime you signal, turn, or change lanes but don’t over do it.
  • Speed Control – is essential, aim for 3 km/hr under every speed limit (47 in a 50)
  • Signal Lights – use them when turning but don’t use them when it’s not required.
  • Stops – make sure to stop gradually and completely before the line or sign if no line. If you are at an all way stop and you are there first, don’t stare at the other cars approaching the intersection as they will stop. Many students will sit at all way stops and stare at the approaching cars as though they aren’t going to stop.
  • Scanning Intersections – before entering any intersection be sure to check for hazards by looking left and right. I see people run red lights all the time so this is a lot like shoulder checks in the sense that checking what’s around you will save your life, or someone else’s at some point.
  • Steering – hand over hand steering is what you have to do on the test. Note that H.O.H. steering will make your turns have better flow.

Just like in contact sports, SHOULDER CHECKS ARE EVERYTHING!

Access Nova Scotia’s Lower Sackville road test route

Stellarton Route

From Access N.S.

  • Turn right on Lawrence Street
  • Continue on Lawrence Street to the roundabout
  • Exit the roundabout to N Foord Street (trunk 374)
  • Continue to the first set of lights that are at Bridge Ave. They could turn you right here into a school zone and curb park you.
  • They could also NOT turn you on Bridge Ave and instead continue to the stop sign after the first set of lights at Bridge Ave. This stop sign is at Jubilee Ave and they would turn you right and curb park you here.
  • After any of these scenarios (which are all the same) they will take you back to Bridge Ave.They could turn you left at N Foord Street and go back to Access NS.
  • Or you could continue on Bridge Ave passing the Esso station then onto Highway 104.
  • You don’t merge onto Highway 104. Instead they take you up to the next exit in the acceleration lane and then back through the roundabouts to Access NS.

Access Nova Scotia’s Bridgewater Road Test Route – Part 1

Access Nova Scotia Bridgewater Road Test Route – Part 2

What to do on test day

  • You need your insurance card, vehicle permit, beginner’s licence, road test receipt and RightLane certificate.
  • Ensure that your lights are working and you have plenty of windshield washer fluid.
  • Don’t lose your licence or certificate in the car
  • Get plenty of sleep 
  • Road Tests are usually 15-20 minutes max
  • It’s okay to be nervous, that’s normal. You are getting your drivers licence. This is one of the most significant days of your life, so yeah, it’s a big deal. But don’t let the nervousness affect your confidence.

Tesla Braking System Causes Young Driver To Fail His DMV Driving Test

Truro Route

From Access N.S.

  • Exit Access NS right to McClures Mills Rd
  • Down to lights at Willow and left
  • straight to Arthur and right
  • Left at one of next two stop signs to Victoria St
  • Left on Victoria
  • Curb park Victoria St
  • Straight to Willow and right
  • Left at light to Prince by U-Haul
  • Hook right at Fletchers Restaurant

Access Nova Scotia’s Bayers Lake Road Test Route

Reverse Parking

Reverse parking makes every new driver nervous, but like with everything else in driving, there is a secret that will make it super easy. The secret tip is the same as every other secret tip I give in any challenging situation related to driving: slow down and take your time.

Access Nova Scotia in Lower Sackville.

It is going to be 10 times easier to reverse park at the Access location you test at compared to any other parking lot. The reason is because you have to look back the entire time that you are reversing on your test. If you were to practice looking back the whole time in a normal parking lot, it would be impossible to know where you are in relation to the parking spot. You would have no choice but to stop and check your side mirrors to reference the painted lines.

Reverse camera

However, at all Access N.S. locations, there will be a sign in the very center of your spot as a reference point. All you do is line up the middle of your car with that sign. Access N.S. does not allow parking in these spots during regular business hours, but you can practice there after hours. You will likely notice many other new drivers doing the same.

Sackville Access N.S. Parking – Line up the middle of your car with the sign.

You won’t be allowed to use the reverse camera on your car so it’s good to get use to looking back the whole time. Also note, when students actually do look back the whole time, they always do a better parking job than if they are looking around or mixing looking around with the camera. Just look back the entire time.

RightLane car

Reverse Parking

Reverse Parking

A Complete Introduction to Defensive Driving For Beginners – Part 1

Driving

A Complete Introduction to Defensive Driving For Beginners – Part 2

Just like in contact sports, SHOULDER CHECKS ARE EVERYTHING!

Would you come out of the corner with the puck without checking over your shoulder?No, because you would get smoked by another player! NHL Hardest Hits Part 1

Be ready for anything

Apocalypse Now

SHOULDER CHECKS ARE EVERYTHING!

Pro tip: When driving at night, be sure to place your phone face down or in the glove box. If you get a notification, the phone will light up the inside of your vehicle, instantly blinding you.

How to avoid the cops AND stay off of the Karen Facebook page when driving through a neighbourhood.

Airport strobe lights at night

How to yield to emergency vehicles; Swedish style

The ‘Move Over Law’

The ‘Move Over Law’ was created to help keep first responders such as police, firefighters, and paramedics, safe while they are working on the sides of the highways and roads. During an emergency like a motor vehicle accident (MVA), there will usually be a lot of activity at the scene. Police will be controlling traffic, and firefighters will be extracting the injured from their vehicles so that paramedics can treat them. During these critical times, it’s important that passing motorists slow down and give as much room as possible to ensure emergency workers on the scene are able to perform their jobs quickly and safely.

Example of what to do. In this case, the student was not slowing for the emergency vehicles so I was more than happy to step in to jam on the brake pedal and slow us down.

The ‘Move Over Law’ is not at all like Nova Scotia’s school zone speed limit law as it is much simpler to interpret. The law simply states that when passing an emergency vehicle with its red or blue lights activated, a motorist should slow to 60 km/hr or lower and if it is possible, change lanes to give as much space as possible to the emergency vehicle. In many cases you will not be able to change lanes, and in those situations I recommend to slow down a little more as you pass. Emergency vehicle lights are specifically designed to get your attention, but don’t stare at the vehicle or the scene when passing. You could accidentally cause a second collision. This is often referred to as rubber necking. Remember, it’s normal to look around when driving but it’s best to only do quick glances and then return your attention to what is directly in front of you.

Below is a photo of an accident from 2017. The police were investigating an accident on Highway 102 and had the highway shut down. Traffic was at a standstill. Somehow, this black Dodge Ram came speeding down the left lane and completely obliterated a police motorcycle. The officer managed to escape certain death by jumping over the median.

A Halifax Police Harley Davidson motorcycle lays destroyed after a pickup truck slams into it at full speed on Highway 102 Exit 1 2017.

The Problem With Driver Education And Inaccurate Technical Information

Driving in Adverse Conditions

All Wheel Drive Mini Coopers Do Not Slip In The Snow (this one has all season tires on it)

A Sunday drive on the highway kind of playlist.

Reverse Parking

Hand Over Hand Steering – slowing it down makes it much easier to learn

Driving Near Wildlife

The Dunning–Kruger effect

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a hypothetical cognitive bias stating that people with low ability at a task overestimate their own ability, and that people with high ability at a task under estimate their own ability.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

Example of what usually happens with over-confident drivers: Turning Left Blooper

Turns | Steering | Intersections

An early 80’s kind of sound. Sort of like the Stranger Things soundtrack.

Cable Barriers

A Complete Introduction to Defensive Driving For Beginners – Part 1

Driving

Reverse Parking

Reverse Parking

Reverse parking makes every new driver nervous, but like with everything else in driving, there is a secret that will make it super easy. The secret tip is the same as every other secret tip I give in any challenging situation related to driving: slow down and take your time.

Access Nova Scotia in Lower Sackville.

It is going to be 10 times easier to reverse park at the Access location you test at compared to any other parking lot. The reason is because you have to look back the entire time that you are reversing on your test. If you were to practice looking back the whole time in a normal parking lot, it would be impossible to know where you are in relation to the parking spot. You would have no choice but to stop and check your side mirrors to reference the painted lines.

Reverse camera

Reverse Parking and Curb Parking; Take-Your-Time

However, at all Access N.S. locations, there will be a sign in the very center of your spot as a reference point. All you do is line up the middle of your car with that sign. Access N.S. does not allow parking in these spots during regular business hours, but you can practice there after hours. You will likely notice many other new drivers doing the same.

How To Forward Bay Park & Reverse Back Out Of A Parking Spot – Forward Stall Parking Made Easy!

Sackville Access N.S. Parking – Line up the middle of your car with the sign.

You won’t be allowed to use the reverse camera on your car so it’s good to get use to looking back the whole time. Also note, when students actually do look back the whole time, they always do a better parking job than if they are looking around or mixing looking around with the camera. Just look back the entire time. If you need to look around that is okay but the car must not be moving backwards if you are not looking backwards.

RightLane car

Reverse Parking

Curb Parking

Nova Scotia Road Test and Routes

A Complete Introduction to Defensive Driving For Beginners – Part 1

Turns | Steering | Intersections

Turns

There’s a lot going on when you’re first learning to drive, especially when it comes to making turns. Essentially, you’ve got to have the same level of coordination as a drummer in a band or a hockey player on the ice. 

For example, a drummer uses their left hand to play the snare drum, right hand and left foot for the high hat, and their right foot for the base drum. And that is just to play one instrument by itself. Add in a band, and now one must not only maintain rhythm and coordination, but must also maintain sync and flow with the rest of the band. Similarly in traffic, a driver learns how to control the brake and gas pedals, steering wheel, and in some cases a manual shifter. 

Once the driver is confident and able to, they will venture out into traffic where they will now have to not only control their vehicle in a smooth flowing manner, but will have to do so while maintaining harmony with the rest of traffic. 

So in a sense, driving in traffic is like being a part of a band in that you have to maintain control of your vehicle (instrument) while ensuring harmonious flow with fellow motorists (band members). 

Pro tip: You can adjust the playback speed of this video and slow it right down. This will make it a bit easier to see what my hands are doing while doing hand over hand steering. Don’t get discouraged with this, it takes a bit of practice. The key is to take your time.

Motorcycle turning left in Bayers Lake.

You are weakest on your driver’s side when making a turn – Always take your time when judging traffic

How To Properly Use Your Turn Signals: How Far Ahead Should You Signal, When To Use Them, And Why

Steering

My BMW 430i Grand Coupe.

Hand Over Hand Steering

A simple way to remember this technique is you lift the hand of whichever side you are turning so the other can pass under.

The best way to learn complicated tasks like driving is to break apart the more challenging aspects of it and perfect each individual technique separately. Let’s look at a rolling turn as an example, as it is one of the more difficult maneuvers to perfect with good flow. 

McLaren on Hammonds Plains Road.

Counter Steering can help you recover from a skid. Just turn your wheels in the same direction of the skid.

The Difference Between Oversteer and Understeer

First, you approach the turn at a safe speed for how sharp it is, while maintaining a steady pressure on the brake or gas pedals depending on whether it’s an uphill or downhill turn. The turn signal must be activated at the correct moment, then the steering wheel must be turned smoothly while maintaining seamless flow. All of these steps are performed at specific times and together during a rolling turn.

Hand over hand steering

So, to perfect rolling turns, one can focus on just the approach speed for the turn and then once that is perfected, they can add in smooth (Hand Over Hand) steering. If adding in the steering causes the approach speed to suffer, remove the steering and go back to perfect the approach speed again until it’s back to perfect. A driver must perfect all of these steps harmoniously at slower speeds then gradually increase to faster speeds.

Over time and with practice, all of these steps fuse together and become second nature for a driver which then allows them to free up more mental bandwidth (no pun intended) for spotting hazards on the roadway. This method works great for merging, passing, and any other complicated task. Slow it down, break it apart, perfect that flow. 

This is what’s possible when you practice; Travis Pastrana Takeover

Intersections

Stop before the line. If there is no line, stop before the sign.

Principles of Intersection Safety

The Safe Distance To Stop Behind A Vehicle At A Traffic Light Or Other Line Of Stopped Cars

Controlled Intersections

When the lights go out at an intersection, traffic will become more complicated. The intersection becomes a 4 way stop when the lights aren’t working. You can always expect that some drivers will not stop, so it is very important that you scan the intersection before proceeding.

Lights-Out Intersections

When the lights are out at an intersection at night, it will be one of the most dangerous situations you will ever face while driving. If the lights are out at an intersection at night you should not only be vigilant but also a bit paranoid. Many of the motorists traveling through the intersection will not even realize that there is an intersection there and will keep driving through. Note that none of the traffic lights in Nova Scotia have any kind of backup lighting or reflective tape for these types of situations.

I used to ride a sport bike and one thing I can tell you is, you have to ride like everyone else on the road is trying to kill you. In this clip, the rider is approaching an intersection at what appears to be too fast of a speed. Motorcycles are a lot smaller than cars and are therefore much harder to see. All the more reason for motorcyclists to ride at the speed limit.

Never speed up at an intersection

You must yield to oncoming traffic when waiting to turn left on a solid green light. Left turns on solid green lights will be the most dangerous thing you will ever do while driving.

How To Make Safe Left Turns At Intersections Across Oncoming Traffic: Don’t Have A Wreck Like I Did!

  • SOLID GREEN: Go, but yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic driving straight through the intersection.
  • FLASHING GREEN: You have the right-of-way to turn left, right, or continue straight.
  • GREEN ARROW: You can go in the direction of the arrow.

Left Hand Turns At Intersections On Solid Green Lights; Take your time!

Intersection tips

  • When turning left, use the drain grates in the intersection to gauge where the center is. 
  • For right turns, don’t drive out before cutting the wheel to begin the turn.
  • HOH steering works best with 90 degree turns.
  • If a vehicle pulls up to the stop sign as you are preparing to turn, reduce your speed even more and use whichever steering method you are most comfortable with.
  • Never trust anyone’s signal light. Wait until the vehicle physically slows down.
  • Stop at the stop line, or the sign if there is no line.
  • If you are stopped at the intersection and the car in front of you proceeds through, you still have to do a full stop at the line even if you are already stopped.
  • If you make a mistake at an intersection, just wave and smile.

Red Light Runners In Halifax

  • Pro Tip: Always scan an intersection from left to right as you approach to ensure no one is running the red light. This is extremely important and is one of the critical aspects of any road test.
  • Never change lanes at an intersection.
  • The first vehicle in line, waiting to turn left should be in the intersection on a solid green light, while keeping the steering wheel straight.
  • Stay in the lane you chose before the turn, as you make your turn. You can change lanes once the turn is completed.

Stay in the lane you chose before the turn, as you make your turn. You can change lanes once the turn is completed.

2018 fatal collision on the Beaverbank Connector – EHS LifeFlight helicopter in Sackville

Red Lights

  • STEADY RED: You can make a right turn at a red light after you come to a stop. 
  • FLASHING RED: Means the same as a STOP sign.

Cameras on, but nobody watching; newly installed cameras used for traffic sensors

https://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/cameras-on-but-nobody-watching-newly-installed-cameras-used-for-traffic-sensors-1.4417834

Yellow Lights

  • STEADY YELLOW: Be prepared to stop. A steady yellow light means the traffic signal is about to turn red.
  • FLASHING YELLOW: Drive with caution.
  • YELLOW ARROW: The protection of a green arrow will end. If you intend to turn in the direction of the arrow, be prepared to stop.

Yellow lights and committing

  • Stop for a yellow signal unless you are too close to the intersection to stop safely. In that case drive cautiously through the intersection. 
  • Never speed up for a yellow signal to “beat” the red signal. 

Judging Yellow lights

A Complete Introduction to Defensive Driving For Beginners – Part 1

Driving

The Eagle’s Nest – Part 1

The landing page for everything Portapique

Although this blog is currently focused on driving and traffic, it was previously focused for a time on the Nova Scotia mass shootings that took place in Portapique April 18th and 19th 2020. Paul Palango has proven beyond any shadow of a doubt that the RCMP is hiding much of what actually took place that weekend regarding their response and incompetence. You won’t find any of this information, which is backed by hard evidence including video, anywhere in corporate news media. However, you will find a lot of information in Paul’s book ‘22 Murders‘.

“There is no virtue so truly great and godlike as justice.” – Joseph Addison

Paul Palango is a Nova Scotian

The Portapique Portal – Part 1; A cold dark night

A comprehensive timeline of the events leading up to and during the Nova Scotia Massacres on April 18-19 2020.

The Portapique Portal – Part 2; Where’s Wortman?

The Portapique Portal – Part 3; A lingering darkness

The Portapique Portal – Part 4; It’s Zero degrees outside!

Nova Scotia Massacre memorials

RCMP radio communications April 18 2020 in Portapique Nova Scotia

EHS And DNR Radio Comms April 19 2020

The Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission

Cst Heidi Stevenson’s memorial – She was literally one of Cole Harbour’s finest.

Orange Skies and RCMP lies; Portapique catches fire

SEARCHING FOR THE MOST COMFORTABLE TRUTH

By Paul Palango

When the Mass Casualty Commission was empanelled in July 2020 to investigate the Nova Scotia massacres, the federal and provincial governments made a big deal out of the fact that it would all be conducted according to the principles of restorative justice and would be “trauma-informed.” 

Everything would be done in consultation. There would be group sessions. Nothing would be adversarial. Any qualified person who wanted to participate would be welcomed. Family members of the victims would be given priority, pride of place, as it were. Maclean’s Magazine, for one, hailed all this as a great achievement, and applauded commissioners Michael MacDonald, Leanne Fitch and Kim Stanton as luminaries in the fight for justice.

As reported in this space yesterday, the province and the feds agreed to put up $100,000 for legal fees for every party represented at the hearings. MacDonald is reportedly being paid $2,000 a day. It’s easy to see how the commission has racked up $13-million in expenses before even opening its doors to the public. Everyone involved got themselves a lawyer or three. The price was that they were required to sign some kind of non-disclosure agreement so that they wouldn’t let the cat out of the bag about what was going on.

The biggest single group is represented by Patterson Law, led by lawyers Robert Pineo, Sandra McCulloch and Grace MacCormick. In the parallel civil law suit, Patterson Law represents all the families. For the inquiry, the firm represents a dwindling number of them, including the families of Lisa McCully, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins, Jamie and Greg Blair, Corrie Ellison, Tom Bagley, Kristen Beaton, Joey Webber, John Zahl, Elizabeth Thomas, Dawn Madsen (Gulenchyn), Frank Gulenchyn and Heather O’Brien. (Patterson Law also represents Carole and Adam Fisher, Leon Joudrey, Bernie Murphy, Deb Thibeault, Mallory Colpitts, Darrell Currie and Greg Muise.)

Lead counsel Steve Topshee from Burchell MacDougall is joined by co-counsel Linda Hupman, clerk James Russell and paralegal Ashley Zwicker in representing four clients: the families of Aaron Tuck, Jolene Oliver, Emily Tuck and Lillian Campbell (Hyslop). Jane Lenehan from Lenehan Musgrave LLP represents the family of Gina Goulet. Josh Bryson from Wells, Lamey, Bryson, Schnare & Mailman is there for the family of Joy and Peter Bond.

For the past few months, the families and their lawyers have been beavering away under the direction of federal government prosecutors who are serving as directors. Commissioners MacDonald, Fitch and Stanton are nowhere to be seen most days. The families were deemed to be part of the ‘first phase’ of the hearings, along with the governments and the RCMP. This must have made them feel important. They were working as a team, marching forward arm in arm in arm with representative from the very organizations that were responsible for the incompetent and negligent behaviour that led many of their loved ones to be murdered.

The process in which they are all participating works something like this. Each foundation paper is a subject: the replica police car, etc. Hours are spent going paragraph by paragraph around the table. Everyone who is invited gets to put in their two cents on everything. This isn’t so much a search for the truth but rather a consensus about what might be the most comfortable truth. 

Once the foundational papers are completed, they will be released to the media. There will be a three-day splash of horrible headlines and then the families can say whatever they want to say. Sounds great, right? But once they’ve signed off on the completed foundation papers, there is little to no room for further debate. No second thoughts. The families have been snookered. Whatever comes out, for better or worse, they have agreed to.

Some seem to think that they have a trump card, information that has been gathered by private detectives. Whatever it might be, if it matters at all, will only serve as leverage with an eager-to-pay government. Once any agreement is reached, any damaging information will be sealed by consent. That’s the way these things work. At that time the families can speak publicly, but what are they going to be able to say, if anything? Meanwhile, there are other victims who are not family. Some of them were closer to the action than any of the family members, but they are being treated as junior partners, barely given the time of day by the commission.

“There is no transparency,” one of them told me in an interview. “They are treating the families as if they are the only victims. It’s totally wrong. I wished I had never signed that non-disclosure agreement.” Finally, there is that last, and largest, class of victims – citizen taxpayers, who continue to suffer psychologically, and yes, financially by all this. And the bleeding has only just begun. 

paulpalango@protonmail.com

40 Gallons And A Mule (excellent Wortman insights)

Portapique Mountain and Five Houses

Driving from Portapique to Wentworth

The Nova Scotia Remembers Memorial Walk Trail – Victoria Park, Truro

Hunter Road

200 Portapique Beach Road – the cottage

‘There were no police around’: what didn’t happen in Portapique 

By Paul Palango

Around the time the first Mounties arrived at Portapique Beach on the night of April 18, five of the 13 victims that night were still alive or in the process of being killed, according to a reconstruction of events by Frank supported by the evidence of key witnesses and a family member of one of the victims. According to the RCMP’s own recent admissions and statements to surviving members, the RCMP was reportedly on scene at 10:26 p.m. on April 18 and Wortman did not leave the area until 10:45 p.m., giving him almost 20 minutes to continue his spree. He was seen moving through a field in his replica police car with its lights off by a group of riders on ATVs who had come to investigate the fires.

There is further evidence that the RCMP did not protect or preserve crime scenes throughout the night, left bodies uncovered, evacuated only a handful of residents and did not call in enough reinforcements and investigators to deal with the nine different crime scenes. In the eight months since Gabriel Wortman went on a rampage and began killing some of his neighbours that Saturday night, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Crown and governments have been extraordinarily vague about what took place. A public inquiry has been announced but there is no set date for when it will begin conducting hearings. There have been at least three shifting accounts about when the first 911 call came in. The force eventually settled on 10:01 p.m. as the time of the first call, although unredacted documents state that neighbour Alan Griffon called at 9:15 p.m. after noticing a fire at Wortman’s residence at 200 Portapique Beach Road. There has been no explanation given about the difference in times.

The RCMP originally had different times for the arrival of the first police officers, eventually settling on 10:26 p.m. It has never formally identified which officer or officers were there, which detachments they came from or what they did or didn’t do. It has never released the name of the officer in charge of the incident or the role played by the highest-ranking officers in the force. Sources say members of the RCMP’s Emergency Response Team did not arrive at the scene until shortly before midnight – two hours after the first 911 call. The RCMP and the Crown have refused to release call logs, radio transmissions or any other conclusive evidence about who did what and when. The RCMP and the Crown also have declined to put out a timeline which might show the order in which Wortman’s victims were killed. Documents which were used to provide evidence for search warrants, which by law should be readily available to the public, have been and continue to be heavily redacted so that it has been difficult to verify what actually happened. Some information, once redacted, were blacked out once new information was released.

The official narrative has been versions of a story in which Wortman and his long-time girlfriend/common law wife, Lisa Banfield, had a fight and that Wortman either tied her up or handcuffed her. Wortman is said to have then gone on a shooting spree where he killed 13 of his neighbours in about a 35 to 40-minute span. That narrative has also shifted over time. The unredacted information, for example, makes no mention of the girlfriend being restrained, but in fact places her at the scene at the time Wortman is setting fire to his log cabin cottage at 200 Portapique Beach Road and his warehouse at 136 Orchard Beach Road. One can travel between the two properties via a narrow path through the woods. There is no other road connection linking them. For Wortman to go by road from one door to the other is a little more than a kilometre in distance. It appears from the official narrative, such as it is, that Wortman burned his buildings first and then began killing. It is not clear from the sequence of events when the girlfriend purportedly escaped from Wortman or from which location.

Alan Griffon lives at 4 Faris Lane, a rutty, dead end road that runs for a couple of hundred metres parallel to the water east off Portapique Beach Road. It lay south of Wortman’s cottage across a tiny indent in the shoreline. There is a direct view from Griffon’s house of Wortman’s prominent dock jutting out from the bank. Griffon told RCMP investigators in partially unredacted documents that he and his wife first noticed Wortman’s house burning around 2100 hours or 9 p.m. This is much earlier than previously reported. The police say the first reports of fire and gunshots didn’t come in until 10:05 p.m. Alan Griffon’s son, Peter, a friend of Wortman’s, also reported hearing the sound of fire from Wortman’s warehouse burning around the same time. Both Griffons said they called in the fires to 911. Neighbours told Frank that they believe that the first to be killed before or after the fire was started at Wortman’s home were his nearest neighbours to the south, John Zahl and Elizabeth (Jo) Thomas. Their A-Frame cottage was located across the road from the Griffons. The property abutted 287 Portapique Beach Road, a 20-acre vacant tract of land owned by Wortman.

According to this scenario, Zahl and Thomas were shot and their house set on fire sometime before 10 p.m. Because the house was burned to the ground, initial suspicions were that Wortman either used a lot of gasoline or an incendiary device. If one is to accept the RCMP timeline, the Zahl fire appears to have been started as something small because it wasn’t noticed by the Griffons until the house was more fully engaged, around 11:30 p.m. Wortman would then have had to drive about 1.5 kilometres up Portapique Beach Road and down Orchard Beach to get to the properties of his next victim. There is conjecture in the neighbourhood about whether it was Greg and Jamie Blair or elementary school teacher Lisa McCully. McCully, who told others that she had had had a fling with Wortman in the past, lived in a house that Wortman’s uncle had built, financed by Wortman. The distinctive raised bungalow has about 2,500 square feet of living space and is among the largest in the neighbourhood. He believed it rightfully should have been his but lost a battle in court with the uncle who afterward sold it to McCully for $189,000, high for the area. The property at 135 Orchard Beach Road sat on a 1.5-acre lot, directly across the entrance to Wortman’s warehouse/man den at 136 Orchard Beach. The warehouse, which featured an apartment, sat on a 3,200 square-foot concrete pad.

Either the burning building across the road or the gunshots from the murder of her next-door neighbours, Greg and Jamie Blair, attracted McCully’s attention. When she went outside, her children, aged 10 and 12, had just gone to bed. Her body was found on her front lawn near the rail fence in the middle of the yard not far from the road. The body of curious onlooker, Corrie Ellison, was found lying near the ditch across the road, a few steps south of the steel gates across the driveway to Wortman’s warehouse. Ellison walked about 400 metres up the road from his father’s cottage to investigate the source of the glow in the sky from the burning warehouse. Before he was killed, Ellison told his brother, Clinton, on the phone that he was taking photographs of the fire.

When Clinton went looking for him and found him dead, he retreated south, likely several hundred metres before turning into a laneway. He hid in the nearby underbrush. He said he saw a flashlight sweeping the area behind him and assumed Wortman was stalking him. Ellison had a cell phone with him and called his father, telling him to call 911. Ellison didn’t call 911 himself and says he hid in the woods in freezing temperatures for about four hours and suffered mild hypothermia. It is not known whether Wortman took the time to actually stalk Ellison in the midst of his spree or was using the laser sights on his weapon to sweep the area. Whatever the case, he appeared to be intent on eliminating any witnesses to his deeds. Wortman likely then made his way north to the house of Greg and Jamie Blair, next to McCully’s. Their neat red and white cottage sits largely hidden from the road by the overgrowth. The house faces south toward the water and not the road. On the way up the driveway there is a tiny shed. On the door is a sign that reads: “WARNING: This property is protected by a double-barrel shotgun 3 nights a week. You guess which ones.” 

Greg Blair, who ran a successful business in nearby Truro, is believed to have responded to the “police car” in his yard. He had recently had a dispute with Wortman, sources say. Wortman shot him outside. As he came toward the house, passed the large “Welcome” sign to the right, Wortman went after Greg’s wife, Jamie. Seeing the danger, she shuffled her two sons, also aged 10 and 12 into a bedroom, where they hid either in a closet or behind a bed. She may have dialed 911 or was in the process of doing so. Her back was against the bedroom door. Wortman shot through the door eight times killing her and narrowly missing her children. He then pulled burning logs out of the fireplace. He placed them in the middle of the room, according to the same sources. 

The Blair house filled with smoke. The children managed to put the logs back into the fireplace and then ran next door to McCully’s house, where her children were in bed. They roused them and all four went to the basement and called 911. The McCully house has near wrap-around windows in the basement making it tricky to find shelter. The time was around 10:05 p.m., although the police have not confirmed this. Wortman then travelled north a few more hundred metres where he killed Frank Gulenchyn in the kitchen of his house and his wife, Dawn Madsen, in the living room, according to Dawn’s son, Ryan Farrington. Wortman set a small fire in the kitchen and then went back outside and sat in his “police car” which was backed into the driveway.

The police did not give chase

Andrew MacDonald operates Maritime Auto Parts, an auto recycler in nearby Glenholme. He has a neatly appointed cottage right at the junction of Portapique Beach and Orchard Beach roads. MacDonald’s company is the sponsor of a police hockey team in the local seniors’ league. He knows the local Mounties and they know him. MacDonald has refused to be interviewed and has hung up the phone when called by a number of reporters, but glimpses of his story have been told in the earliest days after the shootings, in the unredacted documents recently supplied to the public and in conversations he has had with others. MacDonald and his wife, Katie, got into one of his vehicles and went to investigate the source of all the smoke and the obvious fire. They drove past the small, blue-gray cottage lovingly built 10-years ago and fastidiously decorated by Gulenchyn and Madsen. MacDonald saw a police car sitting in the driveway. There was a flicker of flame behind the French doors where the kitchen was located. There was no way that they could have known that Gulenchyn and Madsen were already dead. Wortman again had started a small fire. There is speculation the fire was intended to lure another neighbour and his wife out of their property across the road and into his laser gun sight. That neighbour didn’t bite.

MacDonald drove down Orchard Beach Road for a bit. The warehouse fire was on his right. He apparently didn’t notice the bodies of McCully or Ellison. There was no street lighting. It was pitch dark. He turned his vehicle around and headed back up the road. Wortman pulled out of the driveway and headed south toward him. They met door to door. Wortman, dressed as a Mountie, raised a handgun. It sported a red laser line which MacDonald can see was painting his forehead. He ducked. Wortman fired. The bullet grazed his head. A second shot unknowingly lodged in his parka and missed him. He and his wife appear to be the only eyewitness to get away. MacDonald hit the gas and headed north, passed his house and toward Highway 2. It would have taken him a minute or less. Wortman was pointed south toward the water.

As MacDonald approached Highway 2, the first Mountie arrived at the scene. It was Constable Stuart Beselt, a hockey player on the team MacDonald’s company sponsored. They apparently knew each other. MacDonald told him what happened and then pulled over as the second RCMP constable arrived. His name was Jordan Carroll, which has been reported earlier. Carroll’s father, Al, a staff-sergeant was the commander that night at the Bible Hill detachment, about a 30-minute drive away, on the other side of Truro. According to the unredacted documents, MacDonald told the officers that Wortman or someone who looked a lot like him, was dressed as a Mountie in an RCMP marked car and had shot him. At 10:36 p.m. five more Mounties were dispatched to the scene, one of the victim’s family members subsequently was told. Based on the unredacted documents and police sources, the four were Corporal Natasha Jamieson, Constable Chris Grund, Sergeant Dave Lilly and Staff-Sgt. Steve Halliday. It is not known who the seventh officer might have been or whether that officer responded to the call. RCMP Superintendent Darren Campbell told a CBC reporter that four officers were initially dispatched. At other times, the RCMP has indicated six were at the scene in the first few hours. 

MacDonald had told them who had done the shooting, what he was driving and where he was headed — toward the bottom of the road. The police did not give chase. They remained huddled near the highway, likely waiting for emergency response units, which they had to know would take hours and did, being that its members were spread out across the province. The first ERT units arrived around midnight. Meanwhile, the Blair and McCully children had been on the line with 911 for almost half an hour by this time. Responding fire fighters and paramedics were held back from the scene, as were the police, themselves. As reported in the Halifax Examiner in July, a police supervisor warned some of the officers who were eager to charge down the road to hold their positions. “If you go down there this will be your last shift in the RCMP,” the supervisor said. The Mounties stayed put until around midnight. 

The children were on the line for two hours with a 911 operator, which was first reported in McCully’s obituary notice and later in Maclean’s. The police at the scene would have known where the children were. The shooter’s location was not known so the children were in danger. The RCMP says that at some point officers went down Orchard Beach Road and saw two bodies at one residence and another on the lawn next door. This would have been the Blairs and McCully. The RCMP has never said when this took place or which officers were involved. The combination of events suggests that the RCMP knew the children were in the basement but did not attempt to rescue them. The RCMP has issued statements stating that six officers were hidden in the woods and were protecting the house and the children. Not true. Around midnight, Sgt. Lilly (who is referred to as a constable in the unredacted documents) and Constable Grund made a foray down Orchard Beach Road, extracted the children and took them to the hospital in Truro. 

Meanwhile, after the run in with Andrew MacDonald, it would have taken Wortman a little more than a minute to get down to the bottom where Cobequid Court intersects with Orchard Beach Road. To the right stands three houses, respectively owned by Aaron Tuck, Peter and Joy Bond and a third person who was not there that night. ‘There was a clear altercation at the door’. Wortman appears to have been moving very quickly by now. He first killed Peter and Joy Bond whose house faced the intersection at Orchard Beach. Joy had answered the door wearing her pyjamas and Peter had come out to see what the police officer wanted. 

He then visited the ramshackle, blue, dilapidated house occupied by Aaron Tuck and his family. A discarded toilet sat by the front steps. A bathtub in the front yard was filled with empty liquor bottles, while other bottles were strewn around the property. Tuck had just bought several thousand dollars worth of tools and equipment and was planning on renovating the property, according to Tammy Oliver-McCurdie, the sister of Tuck’s wife, Jolene Oliver and aunt of fiddle-playing Emily, their 17-year-old daughter. Oliver-McCurdie is the liaison person in her family with the RCMP. “I was told that Aaron had just cracked open a beer and was found dead at the door.” But even that version of the story was sugar-coated, as it were, by the Mounties. Oliver-McCurdie finally received a copy of the Medical Examiner’s reports on the deaths on November 26. The story it told was much more descriptive and disturbing.

The reports state that Aaron was shot three times, Jolene twice and Emily once, but Aaron’s and Jolene’s injuries paint an even darker picture. “Aaron had many blunt force lacerations and bruises on his palms, legs and face. Something not sharp was forced against him on his hands and legs,” Oliver-McCurdie said. “He was a little guy but he knew karate. There was a clear altercation at the door. He gave everything he had not to let him in the house. He would protect his girls to the death. I don’t understand how Wortman did it alone. I strongly feel there was more than one person there.” Oliver-McCurdie said Jolene appeared to be turning to run back into the house when she was shot through the arm which entered her thorax. A second shot was to the side of her head. Emily was shot once in the living room.

For Wortman there was a direct exit from the neighborhood across Orchard Beach Road at the eastern end of Cobequid Court, which he took. Running north between the tree line behind the properties on Orchard Beach Road and massive blueberry patch is a perfectly passable gravel road. According to residents it was regraded about a year ago and any vehicle could easily drive along it for its kilometer course up to Brown Loop, a muddy, potholed semi-circle of a passageway that has two openings onto Highway 2. “Everyone knows that’s the evacuation road if you want to get out of here in a fire or something,” said Judy Myers, a bookkeeper who lived about 100 meters from the Bonds and Tucks. The three families were the only permanent residents in that area of the neighborhood.

The RCMP say an unnamed witness told them that a car believed to be driven by Wortman used the route to escape the scene at around 10:35 p.m. But that wasn’t true, either. In fact the vehicle seen at that time was a white vehicle being driven by a curious neighbour who had seen the fires and had driven to investigate. “He went in the Brown Loop and sat at the edge of the field. I don’t know why he was there. He left around 10:35 p.m.” a relative of the man said in an interview. In fact, the RCMP now admits that Wortman didn’t leave the area until 10:45 p.m. when he drove with his lights out to Brown Loop and east toward Debert. Wortman’s vehicle was spotted on video passing a gas station in Great Village at 10:51 p.m. He drove for 32 minutes or so before pulling in behind a welding shop near the historic Debert Diefenbunker next to the airport. He apparently spent the night there, discarding items into a field before he left the area at 5:43 a.m. the next morning.

On that Saturday night there were 13 dead spread over three pods of killing – at the bottom of Portapique Beach Road, near the top of Orchard Beach Road and on Cobequid Court. Although the RCMP knew that a number of people had been murdered and four structures were burning, it didn’t know everything and wasn’t rushing to find out what it didn’t know. After the children were rescued sometime around midnight and taken to the hospital in Truro, there appears to have been only four regular Mounties left at the scene and the first ERT members. The RCMP would later say that there were “30 resources” there without times or details of their deployment. Emergency response teams and other Mounties were being called in from as far away as Woodstock, NB, police sources say. But they wouldn’t get there for hours. Around 2 a.m. Clinton Ellison was rescued by ERT members from his hiding place in the woods and taken to hospital to be treated for mild hypothermia.

Approaching 4 a.m. the police seemed to be concentrating their entire effort, such as it was, on Portapique Beach Road where Zahl and Thomas were murdered and Wortman’s cottage burned down and not on Orchard Beach Road where 11 bodies lay dead in six locations. ‘There were no police around’ Enter Leon Joudrey. He is a forest technician for the Department of Natural Resources. He has lived in the area for two years since his marriage ended. A typical early riser, he had socialized until shortly before 9 p.m. the night before with the Blairs and another neighbour, having dinner in their garage to maintain social distancing requirements. Nothing unusual was going on, he said. Dead tired, he went home and straight to bed. He was awakened in the middle of the night by the smell of smoke. It was 3:45 a.m. “It didn’t smell like a forest fire,” Joudrey said over the course of a series of interviews. “I thought I should go investigate.”

Joudrey’s house is located at 140 Portapique Crescent, which is a loop that begins and ends on the east side of Orchard Beach Road, between it and part of the blueberry patch. It sits behind the Gulenchyn house on its own large lot. There was only one other permanent resident on the road that night. They were unharmed and were not evacuated. Joudrey said in an interview that he drove out to Orchard Beach Road and then up to the intersection of Portapique Beach Road. He turned left and drove passed Andrew MacDonald’s house until he came to a parked RCMP armored vehicle near the smouldering ruins of Wortman’s cottage. He had driven about a kilometre and had seen no other police cars or officers.

He pulled up to the armored car and tried to talk to the driver, who did not or could not roll down his window. “He got on his loudspeaker and told me to turn around and go back to the top of the road,” Joudrey said. “Thinking about it now, if the RCMP were looking for Wortman, they weren’t exactly acting like that. That guy could have cared less about who I was. If they were looking for him, why wasn’t I evacuated? If these were crime scenes, why was I able to drive through them? What the Mounties are saying doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense to me. What are they hiding?” Joudrey turned his pickup around and headed toward home. He passed Frank Gulenchyn’s house but didn’t notice in the dark that it had burned to the ground. He raced down Orchard Beach Road at high speed. He didn’t see anything, so he turned his vehicle around and headed north back toward his house. Along the route he unknowingly passed the body of Corrie Ellison who was lying dead just south of the steel gates to Wortman’s warehouse/workshop at 136 Orchard Beach Road that had also been set on fire. 

Like Wortman, Joudrey said he had had a brief fling with Lisa McCully. She had told him about her relationship with Wortman. She always spoke highly of Wortman, Joudrey said, which was his first clue that there might be more afoot to their relationship than might appear at first blush. Joudrey didn’t notice McCully’s body hidden in the dark near her rail fence. Next door to her at 123 Orchard Beach lay the bodies of Greg and Jamie Blair. Joudrey didn’t see them either because he didn’t go up their driveway. “There were no police around. There wasn’t a flashing light. I drove for a couple of kilometres and didn’t see anything but that one armoured vehicle,” Joudrey said.

At 6:30 a.m. that morning, the night shift of officers at the scene, wherever they were and whatever they had been doing, went home, as was first reported in the Globe and Mail. The investigation into the murders on Orchard Beach Road had not even begun. Around that same time, Wortman’s girlfriend materialized out of nowhere and knocked on Joudrey’s door. She told him that she had been hiding in the woods all night. He was a woodsman. He knew the area. He didn’t believe her. When the Mounties came for her, they didn’t much bother with him or even search his house. They just carted her away. “How did they know he wasn’t in the house holding someone hostage?” Joudrey asked. “Nothing they did was thorough or professional.”

‘A leg was sticking out’

Bookkeeper Judy Myers had gone to bed late, as is her habit. She said she heard what she thought were gunshots — three than two – at precisely 11:28 p.m. because the evening CTV news was almost over. She was getting ready to watch the Honeymooners. Her recollection doesn’t fit the timeline but she’s not the only one to reference that time period. The three Griffons in their statements to the police talk about events happening at around that time, as well. But the police say Wortman had left the area by that time. Myers says she awoke around 4 a.m. after hearing feral cats fighting in her yard. She went outside and didn’t hear or smell anything. It was peaceful. When she awoke in the morning, she was shocked to find out on Facebook what had taken place around her. Around 9 am, she said, a RCMP ERT vehicle turned around in her driveway and 15 minutes later one stopped in her driveway. Officers in their tactical gear came to her door. They asked her if she was safe and whether they could search her sheds and a trailer she owned at the time. They did that and then told her that she should leave and go to the Onslow Fire Hall for shelter.

“When we left we drove up the road and when we got near where Gabriel’s warehouse had been it was gone and there was a body lying under a yellow tarp near the gate. A leg was sticking out. I guess that was Corrie Ellison” Myers recalled. “There were no policemen around or any yellow tape. Across the road you could see another yellow tarp where Lisa McCully was laying. There was no yellow tape there. I didn’t see any other bodies, but Frank and Dawn’s place was burned to the ground.” One other important thing Myers saw which helps to illustrate the lack of manpower the RCMP threw at the incident. Around 10 a.m., Myers said she was driving along the four-lane divided Highway 104 just outside Truro. As she approached the exit for Highway 102, which leads to Halifax and the South Shore, one single RCMP officer was flagging down traffic and conducting inspections. By this time the first reports were coming in that Wortman was killing people to the near north of the area, near Wentworth.

There are more than 1,000 Mounties in various roles in Nova Scotia. The RCMP did not appear to call for help from its own members in Nova Scotia or from municipal police officers in nearby Truro, Amherst, Halifax, New Glasgow or Stellarton. On the other hand, the force may have tried to call in reinforcements, but no one would respond to something so potentially dangerous and life-threatening. If so, that would be just as disturbing.

Deer caught in the headlights

As the story of the horrible carnage slowly emerged that Sunday, April 19, Canadians were told that the RCMP would be holding a press conference at 6 p.m. to inform the world about what had been going on. It was inexplicably delayed for more than an hour. When it finally began two senior Mounties took the podium. One was Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman, the person in charge of the RCMP in Nova Scotia. The other was Chief Superintendent Chris Leather, the number two Mountie in the province. He was the Criminal Operations Officer – the so-called CROPS officer, who supposedly oversaw all operations in the province. All Mounties agree that the CROPS officer is the man in charge when the excrement hits the fan. Their televised appearance was notable for the fact that the two Mounties seemed almost bewildered and nervous, like deer caught in the headlights, as the old saying does. When they described what happened, they didn’t get into details, especially about the number of dead. Throughout the day the number of people killed was rumoured to be eight. They would be the first eight. But now, Leather had a new number because it was known that at least nine people had been killed in Wentworth and elsewhere in Nova Scotia by Wortman.

“There are in excess of 10 families affected,” Leather said, now about 21 hours after the first 911 call. The RCMP had all that time to figure out what happened but could not be specific. The reason for this can be explained by the following fact. Tammy Oliver-McCurdie said that her RCMP family liaison officer, Constable Wayne “Skipper” Bent, told her that her family members were the last to be killed. She has the conversation on tape. Oliver-McCurdie found the information hard to believe. “Aaron would have been on guard,” she said. “He would have heard those gunshots and would have protected his girls. He must have been first.”

But the Tucks’ house on Cobequid Court was far away from the pod of shootings at the top of Cobequid Court. If he was killed first, then the RCMP timeline is wrong. If he was last, he likely didn’t hear anything due to the distance, the thick forest cover and the direction of the wind. The most important thing the RCMP told Oliver-McCurdie may well explain exactly what the RCMP didn’t do that night. “It was approximately 5 o’clock when were able to clear and get into 41 Cobequid that evening, I’m sorry, that afternoon.” RCMP lead investigator Cpl. Gerard Rose-Berthiaume told Oliver-McCurdie in a telephone conversation she taped. “I couldn’t believe it. Five o’clock?,” McCurdie asked incredulously. “That’s almost 20 hours from when they were murdered. Twenty hours. What were they doing?”

As outrageous as that might have seemed to McCurdie, she didn’t realize at the time that the Mounties were still playing with the timeline. She and her sister had been calling the Mounties repeatedly on April 19th in an attempt to have them check on the wellbeing of Aaron, Jolene and Emily, who were not answering their phones or text messages. Tammy’s sister had a time stamp on her phone for the last call to Rose-Berthiaume. It was 5:38 p.m. “He told her that they were on the way to the house but weren’t there yet,” McCurdie said. That alone might explain why Bergerman and Leather looked and acted so weird on television that night. Their prepared statements about what took place had to be retooled in a hurry, which caused the press conference to be delayed. The RCMP didn’t call in the cavalry on the night of April 18. Wortman provided the Mounties with another distraction when he spent the following morning conducting the additional massacre of another nine innocent people. Included in that slaughter was Constable Heidi Stevenson before he himself was killed by police. Caught between the two massacres the RCMP seems to have got itself stuck in neutral – and since then is extremely shy about explaining why that happened.

On the surface these seems like a simple case. A mad man goes wild and kills 22 people and then is killed himself. Eight months later we are still trying to learn simple truths. Eight months! The RCMP and its political, media and citizen protectors have intimated all along that it did everything it could in a desperate situation. The RCMP says it is committed to being transparent and getting to the bottom of the question barrel and providing every possible answer. So why the chaos? Why the confusion? Why all the attempts at distracting the surviving families and the public at large away from the real story.

Transparency?

It is quite clear that the RCMP did the minimum it could possibly do. It is quite clear that Justice Minister Mark Furey and the provincial government has had no interest in providing clarity. It is quite clear that Solicitor General Bill Blair and the federal government is determined to muddy the waters. The big unanswered question is why.

Paul can be reached at his secure and encrypted email address: paulpalango@protonmail.com

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