Conservation officer killed at scene of Highway 11 accident
The driver of an SUV that struck and killed a conservation officer who was directing traffic at the scene of an accident south of Saskatoon is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Justin Knackstedt, a 23-year-old conservation officer from Watson, stopped at the scene of accident to help RCMP direct traffic when he was hit by an SUV Friday night. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In a statement released Sunday, Environment Minister Ken Cheveldayoff expressed condolences to family and friends of Knackstedt on behalf of the Saskatchewan government.
"Justin was a hard-working 23-year-old man with a bright future in front of him," Cheveldayoff said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all who knew this fine young man. No family should have to deal with such a preventable tragedy."
At approximately 5:30 p.m. on Friday, RCMP responded to a two vehicle collision on Highway 11 about 20 kilometers south of Saskatoon. A half ton pulling a trailer collided with a car. The driver, and lone occupant, or the car had to be removed from the car by Saskatoon Fire and Protective services. They were taken to Royal University Hospital, but RCMP on the scene said the injuries were not life-threatening.
The accident led to backed up traffic on the highway, and RCMP were on the scene directing traffic. Just before 6:30, two Saskatchewan Environment and Resource Management (SERM) officers that were on their way to Blackstrap Provincial Park stopped at the scene to help with traffic control.
At approximately 7:40 p.m., RCMP were warned about an erratic driver in a black SUV traveling northbound on Highway 11 towards the accident scene. When the SUV reached the lined-up north bound traffic, an officer approached the driver and after a brief exchange, the driver sped off northbound towards Saskatoon. Officers got in their cars to pursue the suspect, who had driven past the scene of the accident.
As the SUV exited the traffic diversion, the vehicle hit 23-year old Knackstedt. The conservation officer was declared dead at the scene.
The SUV kept going towards Saskatoon, but rolled into the ditch at the Highway 16 overpass near Saskatoon. Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services were on their way back from the original two-vehicle crash site when they found the SUV, on fire, in the ditch. They helped free the driver, and he was then arrested for impaired driving causing bodily harm.
The 35-year-old driver was taken to Royal University Hospital for evaluation, but has since been released into RCMP custody.
The driver has been identified as 35-year-old Blaine Thomas Taypotat. On Saturday, he was charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, criminal negligence causing death, impaired driving causing death, flight from a peace officer causing death, and failing to comply with a condition on an undertaking given by an officer.
Taypotat was remanded in custody and will make his first court appearance in Saskatoon on Monday.
Several organizations are involved in the investigation into this series of events, including the Saskatoon forensic identification section, RCMP traffic reconstruction, Saskatoon Police, Warman RCMP, Military Police, and RCMP major crimes and RCMP traffic services.