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Flagstaff police report reveals details on fatal tow truck, bicyclist collision
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Flagstaff police report reveals details on fatal tow truck, bicyclist collision

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Honoring "Jo"

Participants in a candlelight vigil and walk to celebrate Joanna “Jo” Wheaton pause at the intersection of Beaver Street and Butler Avenue on Thursday, June 3.

The tow truck driver involved in last month’s fatal bike parade collision might have been talking on the phone at the time and driving without a valid commercial license.

The details come after a gruesome police report associated with the crash was released to the Arizona Daily Sun.

The Flagstaff Police Department says there is no evidence that 58-year-old Normand Cloutier was speeding when he ran a red light at the intersection of Butler Avenue and Beaver Street, striking six bicyclists, including 29-year-old Joanna Wheaton, who was killed.

The incident, which is still under investigation, left four others hospitalized.

Multiple witnesses told police that Cloutier made no attempt to brake as he was traveling westbound on Butler Avenue and entered the intersection.

A video captured by another commuter shows the light was green for the bicyclists as they entered the intersection seconds before the crash, according to investigators.

The police report indicates that one officer on the scene was approached by a man claiming to be another tow truck driver who had shown up to check on Cloutier. The man allegedly told the officer he was on the phone with Cloutier at the time of the crash and described what Cloutier had said to him on the phone.

“’Oh, [expletive], I ran it. Oh, [expletive], I thought it was green,’” the man recounted Cloutier saying over the phone, according to the report.

Cloutier allegedly had a Bluetooth device in his left ear as an officer approached his vehicle, according to the report. The same officer reported Cloutier appeared to be talking to somebody over the Bluetooth headset as he was placed in a patrol car.

Another witness told an officer Cloutier had a cellphone in hand as he exited the vehicle. But the police report also indicates the phone was eventually recovered in the truck’s middle dashboard and collected as evidence.

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Officers did not smell alcohol, and neither alcohol nor drugs were recovered as a result of a pat-down after the accident, according to the report.

At the time of the accident, it was reported by the FPD that Cloutier was arrested on suspicion of causing death by a moving violation. It has since been released that Cloutier was also allegedly driving without a proper commercial driver’s license.

FPD officials said a sample of Cloutier’s blood was collected after the accident, a standard procedure following a fatal accident. That sample has been sent to the Northern Arizona DPS Crime Lab for forensic examination.

Throughout the investigation so far, FPD officials heard from eye witnesses that Cloutier said the sun was in his eyes when the collision occurred.

According to the report, investigators visited the site of the collision at the same time of day, finding that the sun could indeed have been a factor.  

The department is also working with an outside agency to conduct a complete inspection of the tow truck to determine if there were any mechanical deficiencies or if there was any action taken by Cloutier prior to the collision such as braking.

According to the police report, Cloutier’s commercial license had lapsed after an associated medical certificate expired in June 2020.

Cloutier told officers that he was advised by his company, Johnson Heavy Towing, not to make any statements at the time of arrest. He was initially booked into the Coconino County Detention Facility on suspicion of causing death by a moving violation, a misdemeanor, but was later released from custody.

The FPD said the case will be turned over to city and county attorneys for prosecution once the investigation is completed, noting that more charges could be considered at that time.

A new study has found that sleeping and waking up an hour earlier could reduce a person’s risk of depression by 23%. Researchers collected data on the chronotype of 840,000 people. A chronotype is a person’s propensity to sleep at a certain time each day. The study found that the average sleep midpoint was 3 AM. This is the halfway point between bedtime and wake time. Each one-hour earlier sleep midpoint reduced a person’s risk of depression by 23%. This means that a person could cut their risk of depression by over 40% if they go to sleep and wake up two hours earlier. The study was published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry


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