Saanich police say the man involved in a series of incidents Sunday morning that ended in a head-on collision and shut down the Pat Bay Highway was having a “mental health episode” behind the wheel.
The 29-year-old Saanich man and his 1968 MG sports car had multiple run-ins with police between 1:15 a.m. and 10:54 a.m. on Jan 19.
Victoria police first pulled him over at Quadra Street and Fairfield Road for crossing the solid centre line and issued him a $109 ticket.
He was then involved in a hit-and-run at 2:30 a.m. with a taxi at Blanshard and Bay streets. The VicPD officer that responded to that incident was the same who issued the ticket a couple hours earlier.
VicPD officers spotted the vehicle around 3 a.m. travelling northbound on Douglas Street.
VicPD communications co-ordinator Bowen Osoko said the car was seen running red lights at Pandora Avenue, Fisgard Street, Herald Street, Caledonia Avenue, Bay Street, Hillside Avenue, Finlayson Street and Boleskine Road.
Osoko said officers advised Saanich police of the driver, and the Saanich department “took over the search for the vehicle.”
Shawnigan Lake RCMP made contact with the man around 4:30 a.m. An officer en route to another call noticed the man parked on the side of the Malahat. He told the officer he was just getting fresh air.
Saanich police were called at 10:50 a.m. when the MG ran a red light at Quadra Street and Chatterton Way. At 10:54 a.m. officers were called to the Pat Bay Highway, just south of the Royal Oak off-ramp, where that vehicle crashed head-on into a 1996 Ford Aerostar van after travelling northbound in the southbound lanes.
Two people in the van were treated for minor injuries. The driver of the sports car was taken to Royal Jubilee with lacerations and bruising.
Eassie said police have had contact with the man in the past for mental health-related issues.
“The underlying factor here appears to be mental health, as opposed to criminal. This was not malicious, this was not an attempt on the individual’s own life. It would appear as though they were having a mental health episode,” he said.
Police still don’t know where the sports car entered the highway, travelling in the wrong direction. Eassie suspects, however, that after the incident at Chatterton, the sports car travelled south on Glanford Avenue and entered the highway at Vanalman Avenue.
He defended the other officers who had dealt with the man earlier in the day, saying nothing in the interactions with the 29-year-old indicated he was suffering from mental health concerns.
Bowen Osoko, communications co-ordinator for VicPD, says the officer that issued the violation ticket around 1:15 a.m. said the man displayed no signs of suffering from a mental health episode.
Eassie said charges under the Motor Vehicle Act or the Criminal Code are still being considered. Victoria police are also considering charges related to the hit-and-run.