Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Battered, broken for good deed

Woman, 20, tried to prevent alleged drunk driving

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Sandra Sveinson couldn't turn a blind eye to a suspected drunk driver who nearly mowed down a crowd of people while trying to flee a rowdy house party.

So the Winnipeg woman -- and daughter of a well-known city police officer -- did the only thing she could think of to try to prevent the type of tragedy that claimed a beloved family member in 2005 in a high-profile case.

She tried to grab the keys from the stranger's ignition. But the 20-year-old almost lost her own life when she was dragged several metres and suffered massive injuries to much of her body.

Police called it a cowardly hit-and-run.

"I was scared he was going to run somebody else over. He would have hit people or cars the way he was driving," Sveinson told the Free Press Monday. She wrote answers to questions because her jaw is wired shut.

'I was scared he was going to run somebody else over. He would have hit people or cars the ways he was driving'

-- Sandra Sveinson

Sveinson has just returned home after spending a week in hospital with a fractured skull, several broken ribs, a broken cheekbone and broken chin. She has undergone facial surgery and is still experiencing double-vision that doctors hope isn't permanent.

"I still have a lot of pain," she said.

The trouble began in the early morning of Sept. 1 when several unknown people crashed a party hosted by Sveinson's aunt in East St. Paul. The Labour Day long weekend gathering is an annual tradition, with friends and neighbours meeting for drinks and a bonfire.

Sveinson began helping her relatives escort some of the unwanted guests off the premises when a pickup truck roared up the driveway, narrowly missing a group of people.

That's when Sveinson sprung into action. Her body got stuck in the doorway as the driver reversed and tried to get away, dragging her with him.

Her cousin, Peter Hanuschuk, managed to pull her from the truck just before the stranger turned the wheel and sped off. It's a move the family believes prevented her from getting run over.

East St. Paul RCMP are investigating the incident but have made no arrests. They are asking the public for any information about the driver.

"Nobody has a clue who he is," the victim's father, Cecil Sveinson, said Monday. The longtime Winnipeg police officer is proud of his daughter for trying to act responsibly and thankful she is still alive.

"They were worried her broken ribs may have punctured her heart," he said. "She just thought she had to stop this guy before he hurts someone else. Our whole family is dead set against drunk driving."

His cousin was Crystal Taman, a married mother of three who was killed in 2005 after her car was rear-ended by off-duty Winnipeg police officer Derek Harvey-Zenk while she waited at a red light near Lagimodiere Boulevard and the Perimeter Highway.

Harvey-Zenk was heading home from a night of drinking with fellow officers. He pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of dangerous driving causing death and was given a conditional sentence.

The failure of East St. Paul municipal police to properly document signs Harvey-Zenk was impaired was one reason alcohol-related charges were dropped. That issue was the focus of a 2008 inquiry that led to the arrest of former police chief Harry Bakema, who will learn his fate on perjury and obstruction of justice charges on Nov. 1.

Sandra Sveinson never expected her decision to get involved would jeopardize her safety, but she doesn't regret getting involved. She is focused on recovering, plus dealing with incredible news she received in the hospital. An examination revealed she is nearly five months pregnant. It came as a shock.

"To the person who did this, you put me through a lot of pain and risked the life of my baby and I. You should do the right thing and come forward," said Sveinson.

The driver who fled is described as a white male in his mid 20s with and average build and light-coloured, spiked hair.

The vehicle was a dark-coloured small model truck. Anyone with information is asked to call RCMP at 204-667-6519 or Manitoba Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 10, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 at 6:50 AM CDT: Replaces photo

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