Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Driver's trial in fatal crash turns to HSC lab protocol

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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 Health Sciences Centre testified Thursday at Vann Hansell's trial in 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 who said Hansell, right after the crash, admitted texting on his cellphone.

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

Court has heard Hansell's Toyota truck swerved into the oncoming lane 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 from which he died 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 of the impaired-driving charge he faces.

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

They were immediately handed 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 about the hospital's in-house lab's sample-handling and testing procedures.

Lab technicians 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 testified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, Jackson said.

Court previously heard testimony from officers 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.

james.turner @freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 16, 2014 A7

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