Coroner links alcohol to Penticton woman’s death

Accident-prevention worker says Kyra Holt's death after falling from truck a grim reminder about playing safe

Kyra Holt

Kyra Holt

An accident-prevention worker said the death of a woman who fell from a truck in Naramata is a grim reminder of the danger that results from mixing booze with risky activities.

Kyra Holt, 39, died on April 26, 2013, when she tumbled out of the back of a pickup truck and struck her head on the asphalt road.

She worked as a unit clerk at Penticton Regional Hospital and left behind an adult son.

According to a coroner’s report released this month to the Western News, a toxicology test conducted on Holt “revealed a high level of intoxication from alcohol,” which was deemed a “contributing factor” to her death as a result of head trauma.

“It is unfortunate that it does take a tragedy, but yes, (Holt’s case) definitely raises the profile of the issue,” said Dr. Shelina Babul, a spokesperson for The Community Against Preventable Injuries.

The group is composed of 80 organizations across Canada that have banded together to help reduce preventable injuries and death.

“Intoxicated or not, riding in the back of an open pickup truck, there’s inherent risks as you’re not belted down. If the (truck) brakes forward or skids or is hit by another vehicle, chances are you’re going to fall out the back of that truck and you have no protection,” said Babul, also the associate director and sports injury specialist at the B.C. Injury Research and Prevention Unit.

“Having a high blood-alcohol level, you’ve got the lack of co-ordination and lack of reaction time associated with that,” she added.

Holt had been on the KVR Trail near Little Tunnel with friends before she and another person, along with two dogs, climbed into the back of a 1997 Ford F-150 pickup truck that had a plastic bed liner and was headed for the Naramata store, coroner Jed Maddock wrote in his report.

Witnesses noted Holt was sitting with her back against the passenger side of the truck box as the Ford approached Naramata Elementary School while travelling westbound on Robinson Road.

Then, “Ms. Holt began changing her position from being seated to moving into a standing position. She was observed using her arm against the wheel well to assist in pushing herself up,” Maddock wrote.

“Before she became upright she lost her balance and fell backwards and head first over and out of the right side of the cargo area of the pickup truck.”

The coroner noted that other passengers reported “no noticeable decrease or increase in the vehicle speed or general direction prior to Ms. Holt falling out,” and an RCMP collision analyst later determined the truck was moving “at a minimum speed of 29 km/h” when the incident occurred.

Holt was pronounced dead at the scene.

Maddock noted the presence of beer cans in the back of the truck and that Holt was “reported to have consumed alcohol during the hours prior to her death.”

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said the police investigation is ongoing, but charges have not yet been recommended  against the truck driver.

“Ms. Holt’s death is a grave reminder of the tragic consequences and outcomes that can occur when drivers permit passengers to be improperly seated in pickup truck boxes,” Moskaluk said in a statement.

“Pickup truck box areas are designed and meant to carry cargo, not people.”