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A family is in mourning after a young mother was killed and her nine-month-old child suffered life-threatening injuries when their vehicle was struck Saturday by a pickup truck fleeing from police.
Jennifer Dethmers, 30, was a passenger in a van with her boyfriend, step-daughter, and baby boy at the time of the collision, around 1:30 p.m., in Winnipeg's William Whyte neighbourhood.
Dethmers was pronounced dead in hospital that day; her infant child is currently fighting for his life, said cousin Clint Enns.
"A beautiful, young new mother is gone, and now her son is in critical condition. He’s only nine months old. He’s got a broken spine, brain damage, internal bleeding, broken bones," Enns said Monday.
"He’s still holding on. The doctor says he has a strong heart. He’s not gone yet."
On Sunday, the Winnipeg Police Service charged Armand Joseph Jr. Chartrand, 43, with 12 criminal offences, including dangerous driving causing death, criminal negligence causing death, and driving without insurance or a valid licence.
Chartrand remains in custody. He appeared in court briefly Monday, and was ordered to have no contact with six people identified as witnesses to the incident.
Chartrand has a prior record for driving offences. Most recently, he pleaded guilty in 2012 to driving without a licence and insurance and was fined $850. In 2002, Chartrand was sentenced to a prison term after pleading guilty to robbery and several driving-related offences, including theft of a motor vehicle, possession of a stolen automobile, and joyriding.
According to officials, members of the WPS traffic unit observed a pickup truck in the area of Main Street and Boyd Avenue around 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Soon after, officers attempted to pull the vehicle over, but it fled from police.
"Within seconds, the fleeing vehicle collided with a second vehicle at the intersection of Andrews Street and Boyd Avenue," WPS spokesman Const. Rob Carver said Monday.
"Four people from the struck vehicle, including an infant and a child, and two from the fleeing vehicle were transported to hospital, most in critical or serious condition."
The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, the provincial police watchdog, has been called in to probe WPS conduct in connection with the fatal crash.
"We know that fleeing vehicles present a huge risk to not only people in the vehicles but people in the community, as well as innocent bystanders… The overriding policy for us is to always ensure the safety of the public," Carver said, adding officers did not pursue the vehicle in this case.
"A fleeing vehicle is thousands of pounds of metal that can do the type of damage we saw on the weekend… That’s the danger."
Supporters of Dethmers' family are organizing a vigil at the scene of the crash at 7 p.m. Tuesday. It comes on the heels of a vigil held over the weekend at the same spot.
Enns said his cousin was an "all-around good person," who was "well-liked" and "had a lot of friends. Her life was stolen far too young, he said.
"She was a really good mom. She was just starting her life with her baby boy. She was family-oriented, stayed away from drugs, didn’t hang out with gang members or anything like that," Enns said.
On Monday, police did not have an update on the medical condition of Dethmers' boyfriend, his young daughter, nor the two people in the pickup truck.
Dethmers mother, Candy Volk, is struggling with her daughter’s death, Enns said, but is trying to stay strong for her grandson who remains in hospital.
"(Volk) is very spiritual. Prayers are very important for her. She is still at the hospital, she has still not left the baby’s side. The baby is going to have surgery in the next couple of days. She is still at the hospital, right there with him," Enns said.
"She is still praying over top of him."
— with files from Dean Pritchard
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
Updated on Monday, September 28, 2020 at 12:41 PM CDT: Adds images.
2:50 PM: Updated with more details.
4:45 PM: Final story
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