Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Crown seeks new trial in flag woman's death

Senior was found not guilty in highway tragedy

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Manitoba justice officials are seeking a new trial against a senior who walked free after mowing down a highway flag worker while going nearly double the speed limit.

Michael Blostein, 70, was found not guilty of dangerous driving causing death earlier this year in a decision that angered the victim's family. Queen's Bench Justice Doug Abra ruled Blostein's conduct didn't represent a "marked departure" from the normal standard of care expected by motorists.

"I am satisfied he was driving with due care and attention," Abra said in his written decision.

The Crown disagrees, filing a notice of appeal on Friday that claims Abra erred in his judgment and his decision should be overturned. No date for a hearing has been set.

'Our daughter didn't do anything wrong. It's like she's the one who's guilty of something'

-- Brittany Murray's father, Neil Murray

Blostein was charged following the Oct. 18, 2010, collision that killed Brittany Murray, 21. She was employed as a flag woman for Mulder Construction, which was resurfacing a stretch of Highway 207 between the Trans-Canada Highway and Highway 15.

"Our daughter didn't do anything wrong. It's like she's the one who's guilty of something," the victim's father, Neil Murray, told the Free Press after the verdict. "We really felt like it was like 'Who gives a care about your daughter, let's just get out of here.' "

An RCMP collision-reconstruction analyst found that, based on the skid marks, Blostein had been travelling at a minimum of 112 km/h just before he applied his brakes and then was doing 89 km/h when he struck and killed Murray.

Blostein testified he believed the speed limit was still 90 km/h and did not reduce his speed to 60 as warned by signs because he didn't see any workers until he hit Murray, who he claims he didn't see standing in the roadway with the flag. That would still put his speed of 112 km/h at 22 km/h over the limit, rather than 52 km/h over.

However, Abra said it's clear Murray was flagging "some distance away" from any actual construction work in the area, perhaps as much as 200 metres. He said Blostein's high speed alone wasn't enough to convict.

"I am not satisfied that driving at a speed of approximately 112 km/h with good visibility and a dry highway, when there were no workers in the immediate vicinity, was a marked departure from the manner in which a reasonably prudent person would have driven when the wording on the sign is that 60 km/h is the speed limit only when passing workers," said Abra.

Abra also took issue with the fact Murray was wearing iPhone earbuds at the time of the tragedy, which was a violation of company rules and may have led to a lack of attention on her part.

"This undoubtedly impacted her hearing, her concentration and her cognizance for oncoming traffic," he said.

At the trial, the Crown argued Blostein failed to take cautionary steps a reasonable person would have taken.

"This is a case of speed and inattentiveness," prosecutor Craig Savage said during his closing arguments. "If (Blostein) had been paying more attention to his speed and to his surroundings, he would have seen Miss Murray."

Savage said Blostein should have known to expect a flag person and other workers along the site and was driving too fast for those conditions.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 27, 2013 B3

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