‘Somebody is missing an air mattress’: OPP plea for help in deadly highway accident

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Ontario Provincial Police are calling on the owner of an inflatable air mattress that caused a fatal motorcycle crash on Highway 406 in Welland earlier this month to come forward.

They’re also appealing to witnesses or anyone with any information to contact them or CrimeStoppers, to help give the family of Donald Pidgeon, 55, who was killed in the crash, some answers.

“Somebody out there knows something,” said OPP Sgt. David Brazier of the traffic support unit, outside the Niagara OPP detachment in Niagara Falls Wednesday afternoon.

Brazier, Niagara OPP detachment Acting Staff Sgt. Dan Briggs, and media relations officer Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Highway Safety Division, spoke about the fatal crash which on Friday, July 7, claimed the life of the Fort Erie man and resulted in three other people being injured.

“The crash involved a situation where there was three motorcycles travelling down Highway 406 just north of Welland when they came across an object on the highway. This object is this air mattress, that is now deflated, that was inflated at the time. It was sitting on the highway,” said Schmidt.

He said the air mattress, which police had on display for media Wednesday, came off of a vehicle, believed to be a pickup truck, just prior to the collision occurring in the northbound lanes of the highway.

“What we really want to talk about right now is that someone is missing an air mattress, someone is missing some of their property and they know something about it or there is a witness out there that has information that can assist us with this investigation,” he said.

On the night of the crash, OPP said, Pidgeon, on a brand new Harley-Davidson with a passenger on back, was travelling with two other motorcycles on Highway 406 north of the East Main Street roundabout when they came upon the air mattress.

OPP said the driver of the first motorcycle was able to successfully swerve around the inflated dark blue air mattress. Pidgeon was operating the second motorcycle in the group and struck the air mattress, losing control of his bike after it became entangled. He was thrown from the bike and later died from his injuries. His passenger was injured.

Brazier, supervisor of the OPP reconstruction team who was on scene that night, said the third motorcycle driver laid his bike down, to avoid Pidgeon’s bike, and he and his passenger slid down the highway. He said there was “interaction” between the motorcycles and there was a possibility that bike may have struck Pidgeon.

“Anyone driving a motorcycle knows how vulnerable they are if they are involved in a collision. If they’re going to go off of their machine, someone is going to get hurt,” Schmidt said.

Pidgeon’s family wants to know what happened, where the air mattress came from, he said. Pidgeon is survived by his wife Tina and four children and three stepchildren.

“We want to make sure the family has the answers they are looking for,” Schmidt said of the OPP’s public appeal. “There is someone out there knows whose air mattress this is or that actual person has yet to come forward.”

The crash, he said, was very preventable, and OPP constantly see insecure loads on the highways. Anything being carried on a vehicle, the back of a truck or a trailer must be properly secured.

“You are responsible for the load you are carrying … this should not have happened. You may not think that something that weighs only a couple of pounds is going to cause any issue to anybody. But when it comes out on to the highway and now people are swerving to avoid it, especially vulnerable road users like motorcyclists, this is something that be very devastating and obviously we’re seeing the deadly consequences,” said Schmidt.

Briggs said in the days leading up the fatal incident, Niagara OPP officers and Transportation Ministry contractors The Miller Group removed such items as coolers, ladders, box springs, bed mattresses and air mattresses from Niagara highways.

“It’s very common. At least a couple of times a day we receive calls,” said Briggs, emphasizing the need for people to properly secure any load they are carrying.

Briggs said the crash took place about 500 metres north of the East Main roundabout in the right-hand lane. He said it would have been hard to see the air mattress as the group of motorcycles came through two curves in the road because it would have blended in with the asphalt. The time of day would have also been a factor. The crash took place at 9:40 p.m.

As for potential charges against the air mattresses owner, Schmidt said they could fall under having an insecure load.

“If it was negligent and with intent, there could be criminal charges. At this point we don’t have any information whether or not someone was doing this maliciously … We just want to provide answers to the family.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Niagara OPP at 905-356-1311 or call CrimeStoppers at 1 800 222-TIPS (8477).


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