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Judge rules RCMP share blame for Guliker crash
A Supreme court judge has ruled that the RCMP were 20 percent at fault in the crash that killed Gerald Guliker and Viktor Bergen.
The crash took place on Ferry Road on Aug. 10, 2008 following a high speed chase between Guliker and the RCMP. Guliker, a Rosedale resident, had been suffering from depression and was suicidal when the police were called in by his family to help. He had positioned himself on a farm on Bustin Road, and the RCMP were informed that he could see oncoming vehicles, and would flee if they approached.
Guliker had also threatened to run into traffic to kill himself, and the RCMP also knew this, the Hon. Justice Savage noted in his ruling this Monday, Jan. 6. When the RCMP approached, Guliker did flee onto Ferry Road, where he crashed his van head on into Bergen's GMC Envoy.
Also in Bergen's truck were his wife, Inna Bergen, their three year old daughter, and two house guests. All of the passengers survived and Bergen and the two friends had since had filed a lawsuit against the deceased Guliker and the B.C.'s Justice Ministry, alleging RCMP negligence.
Savage agreed, and while he placed 80 percent of the fault with Guliker, he outlined several ways in which the RCMP made mistakes in the time leading up to the crash.
"In my opinion, but for the RCMP’s chase or pursuit of Mr. Guliker, the collision would not have occurred," Savage ruled.
When Black Press interviewed Guliker's wife Wendy in 2008 (see archived news story below), she had said the police told her they would chase him if he ran. The RCMP released an official statement following the crash denying a chase. However, the civil case found that a chase happened and pointed out a number of "acts of fault or negligence."
The ruling found the RCMP is blameworthy because they, ignored the information provided to them by the public, failed to conduct a proper risk assessment, developed a plan or strategy based upon incomplete or flawed information, to the extent they developed a plan, they failed to implement it, abandoned a plan that would have contained Mr. Guliker and protected the public, approached Mr. Guliker knowing that he was suicidal, would jump into traffic, would flee if approached, and had the ability to access the public roadways to the north of his location, and finally, the RCMP followed Mr. Guliker at high speed instead of stopping their vehicles and de-escalating the situation.
Guliker had been waiting in the field at Bustin Road for a meeting with his wife. They had become estranged following a tragic story of loss for the Guliker family. Seven years prior to his death, Guliker was seriously injured on the job when his feet were tangled in canvas that was on the ground. He hit his head with such force he had to be hospitalized for one month. He was often depressed following this injury, and began having epileptic seizures. When he became violent — a complete change from the happy, doting hockey dad of years prior — the family became estranged.
His wife and relatives were attempting to get him help and hoping to restore their family. They said they had called the RCMP that day in the hopes he would receive that help.
“He needed the help he deserved,” she said in 2008. “He wanted help. He wanted to be the person he wanted to be. The system has failed him and I’m sure others like him.”
Father was 'not a monster'
Editor's Note: This is an archived story that was originally was published on Aug. 13, 2008 in the Chilliwack Progress. It was written by Jessica Peters following an interview granted by the Guliker family at their Rosedale home.
Intent to kill doesn’t mesh with their image of Gerald Guliker as a doting hockey dad
The Gulikers’ home phone is ringing off the hook. Family and friends are visiting in unrelenting waves of help. Notes from curious journalists have been left on the front step of their Rosedale home. And on Tuesday, Amanda Guliker, 17, was chased down by a Vancouver-based news team. The same television reporter has knocked on their door three times in less than 24 hours. They are refusing to speak to him.
All this, just three days after the family patriarch’s tragic death.
They understand why everyone is trying to understand the how and why. How did Gerald Guliker crash into Victor Bergen’s SUV on Sunday? Why was he suicidal?
The attention is enough that it’s interrupting his family’s chance to properly grieve.
But the Guliker family has grieved before. And they’re strong. As they sit together around a patio table in their backyard, they tell their story of Gerald Guliker. And it’s a profile of a man that denies any possibility he was a murderer.
Telling that story, they say, can help them heal. And they hope it will show the community that Guliker was not a monster. He was a man who needed help, desperately.
Up until seven years ago, they tell The Progress that Gerald Guliker was the perfect husband and father.
“He was fun, he was happy, he was handsome. He played hockey with a passion,” says his widow, Wendy. They billeted Chilliwack Chiefs for three years running, including players like Aaron Boucher, Richard Dean and Jason Krog.
“They loved coming to our house and hanging out,” Wendy says. “They loved Gerald.”
“We had a pool,” Amanda explains.
But seven years ago, a workplace accident left Guliker with severe head trauma. At the time, the youngest boy Aaron was just five months old. David was seven and Amanda was 10. Wendy and Gerald Guliker were happily in love, teenaged sweethearts who had been “together forever.”
The day he got hurt, Gerald changed forever. He had only fallen backwards from a standing position, but his head hit the pavement with such force that the hospital was expecting him not to survive. Wendy was told his feet had simply gotten tangled in some canvas that was laying on the ground, there to protect the concrete from his plastering job.
Arriving at the hospital, she assumed that her husband, an epileptic, had only had a seizure. But later that day, a doctor told Wendy that her husband would probably die.
“And in some respects, we all did lose Gerald seven years ago,” she says.
Once he left the hospital, one month later, he was depressed often. His life consisted of doctor’s appointments, heavy medications, pain and suffering.
After some time, those problems began to affect his whole family, despite attempts to regain normalcy.
And it was just recently that the whole issue “came to a head.”
“There was this whole desperation that took him in this way,” says Amanda, eager to explain the tragedy to the community. “He thought he’d lost us and we were his reason to live.”
But his recent actions were nothing to be tolerated. He threatened his two older children, kicked in the television and ruined the computer modem.
“He thought these things were getting in the way of family time,” Wendy says. “And I had to make a decision.”
She called the police, because someone had told her if they saw his mental state, they would get him help.
Instead, the Crown pressed charges and he landed in jail for three weeks.
He was released not quite two weeks ago.
“I never intended for them to charge him,” Wendy says. “I was hoping they would take him, see emotional state and get him help. I never intended for charges to be laid.”
Wendy says that the thought of going back to prison would have been hard, but the thought of losing his family was even harder.
“He needed the help he deserved,” she says. “He wanted help. He wanted to be the person he wanted to be. The system has failed him and I’m sure others like him.”
They know he was suicidal, and he had threatened his own life before. They are slowly coming to realize he probably did intend to end his life on Sunday.
But they insist he wouldn’t have knowingly hurt another human being.
“He would be so grieved to hear (people say) that,” Wendy says. “He wouldn’t have killed that guy on purpose.”
From speaking with witnesses of the minutes before the accident, and by visiting the crash site, they know he was running scared from another trip to jail.
“I don’t know what he was thinking, but he was moving (around the corner of Bustin and Rosedale Ferry Roads),” Wendy says. “Gerald tore off fast when he saw (the police) coming.”
The RCMP released an official statement on Monday denying any police chase, and implicating Guliker’s accident was murder-suicide.
“But they told us they would chase him,” Wendy says.
And she believes they did.
For now, the family is more concerned with remembering the good times than dealing with the RCMP.
“He would throw us into the pool and we loved it,” says Amanda. She’s looking over a table full of snap shots of her family, and picks out one of their old house on Carleton.
“We thought we were flying so high into the air,” she says, looking back in time.
In most of the photos, Gerald Guliker is a happy, laughing, loving father and husband. There are school pictures, wedding pictures, outdoor pictures and others.
The kids laugh at his gigantic glasses, his clothes, his sense of style. In others, his change in appearance and demeanor are painfully obvious. They point at his scars, his body language.
But at some point, the Gulikers stopped taking many family snapshots.
There has been some dredging up of the past, considering Guliker’s sister was one of the four teens murdered in 1977. The fact those murders occurred a few hundred metres from where Guliker crashed seems like an eerie coincidence.
But Wendy assures that it was not.
And she hopes her family, her husband’s family and the Bergen family can all have some time to heal.
“It’s been one thing after another,” she says. “We need some peace.”