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Lab procedures called into question during fatal crash trial

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Lab procedures at Manitoba’s largest hospital are going under a microscope in the trial of a young Winnipeg driver accused in a fatal crash.

A nurse and officials from the Health Sciences Centre testified Thursday at Vann Hansell’s ongoing trial in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

The 22-year-old is accused of criminal negligence, dangerous driving and impaired driving causing the death of Mark Derry on Dugald Road on the evening of Sept. 6, 2011.

Court has heard from several witnesses so far who said Hansell, right after the crash, admitted to texting on his phone.

A patient care record referred to briefly in court Thursday indicates he disclosed this to a nurse.

Court has heard Hansell’s Toyota truck swerved into the oncoming lane in order to avoid rear-ending traffic stopped on the road waiting for a city crew to finish moving some equipment.

The truck hit Derry’s Dodge Neon nearly head-on. The crash resulted in the 53-year-old suffering critical injuries, which he died from hours later in hospital.

Hansell and his lawyers are challenging the integrity and legal continuity of blood evidence police seized in the case — a key component to the impaired-related allegations he faces.

Three vacuum-sealed vials of his blood were taken by a Health Science Centre nurse at a doctor’s request a few hours after the crash.

They were immediately handed over to the in-house diagnostic laboratory for testing, court heard.

Tests found Hansell’s blood contained an amount of ethanol, court was told.

Susan Jackson, director of diagnostic services at HSC, testified in detail on the hospital’s in-house lab’s sample handling and testing procedures.

Lab techs follow a standardized process to match test samples to the right patients and requested tests, Jackson said.

If any issues arise the samples are rejected, she indicated.

Actual chemical testing of the blood is done by automation and not by people, she said.

Results are then sent electronically to a computer system and shared with medical staff, court heard.

"We don’t even see the results," said Jackson.

Lab techs then recap the blood vials and hold them in storage racks in a fridge for three to five days.

Police must first call the lab and then fax over a request to have the samples held, she said.

Only when they show up with a warrant and sign off on the request is the material released to them, said Jackson.

Winnipeg police made a request for Hansell’s blood vials the day after the crash.

Records show on Sept. 10, 2011, an officer turned up to claim them, said Jackson.

Court previously heard testimony from officers that they later picked up the vials from the police evidence control unit on Empress Street and took them to an RCMP lab for testing.

The trial continues.

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