Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
No criminal charges in deaths
Family of two killed in crash outraged only fine possible
It was a senseless loss: A mother and daughter, out for a fun night together, killed when a speeding, out-of-control SUV suddenly crosses over into an oncoming lane and slams head-on into their compact car.
Now family members of the two innocent women say they're being re-victimized by an inadequate justice system they've been told will result in no criminal charges being laid in the September 2013 tragedy.
"It doesn't make any sense. It doesn't seem right," Darrel Haug told the Free Press on Thursday. "For nobody to even get a criminal record out of this doesn't seem right at all."
His sister, 43-year-old Jeannie Haug, and his niece, 23-year-old Brittney Chegus, died of massive injuries in the crash near the intersection of Gateway Road and Budden Drive in East Kildonan. They were returning home, on a Saturday evening around 9:30 p.m., when their lives were suddenly cut short.
The impact of the crash was so severe their car rolled several times and ended up on the roof. Emergency crews had to use the Jaws of Life to get them out of the crumpled wreckage and attempted CPR on scene before rushing them to hospital, where both were pronounced dead.
The 29-year-old female driver of the SUV suffered minor injuries, as did her 31-year-old boyfriend who was in the passenger seat. Family members of the two victims told the Free Press the police investigation determined the woman may have been driving as fast as 103 kilometres per hour in the 60 km/h zone at the time.
-- Darrel Haug, whose sister and niece died in the crash
Following an initial investigation, police charged only the boyfriend with the rare Highway Traffic Act offence of obstructing the driver of a motor vehicle. Family members say this came as a result of his admission he grabbed the steering wheel from his girlfriend just prior to the crash.
However, that HTA offence against the man, Carl Balan, was abruptly stayed by the Crown on April 1. Family members say they were told by the prosecutor, Craig Savage, Balan explained he was trying to protect himself and others on the road when his girlfriend dropped something on the floor and reached down to pick it up.
The family has also been told a charge of careless driving, also under the Highway Traffic Act, will soon be laid against the woman, now more than seven months after the fact. But no Criminal Code charge, such as dangerous driving, will be pursued. That means the end result would be a fine and nothing more.
And that isn't sitting well with the family, who feel their voices aren't being heard. They have remained silent until now, dreading any kind of publicity. But they say they have no choice but to speak out, hoping the Crown might feel pressured to reconsider.
They have some strong allies in their corner. Justice sources say Winnipeg police share their concerns and have also pushed for criminal charges to no avail.
"We're so sickened by it. Everything that happened that day would seem to lead to dangerous driving. You have these crazy people just come like a bat out of hell and hit them," said Amy Chegus, who is the niece and cousin of the two victims. "It just feels to us like they don't matter, that they've been left in the dark here. People shouldn't be able to get away with killing two people."
The Free Press is not naming the woman until a charge is laid.
Savage said Thursday he couldn't comment on the situation given there are currently no charges pending in the matter given the recent stay of proceedings entered against the male passenger.
"As you are already aware, though, I did meet with the victims' family members for over two hours. I explained to them what I expected would occur in terms of charges but that hasn't happened yet," said Savage.
Haug left behind a 10-year-old special needs daughter, a 20-year-old son and a one-year-old granddaughter, along with numerous other extended family members.
"The daughter is now realizing that she will never see her mom and sister again and is dealing with it through therapy," George Tkachyk, the stepfather of Haug and grandfather of Chegus, told the Free Press Thursday.
"Jeannie's son is still inconsolable. Her brother hasn't been able to work out his grief. We believe there should be charges of dangerous driving. They were real human beings. They had loving families and friends and futures of their own," he said.
Amy Chegus said the Crown is sending the wrong message by only proceeding under the HTA.
"It's telling the public you can just go out and kill two people," she said. "There has to be something done here. How many more people have to be killed for the Crown to take it more seriously?"
Darrel Haug said the Crown has told him and other family members they likely would lose at trial if they were to pursue criminal charges such as dangerous driving causing death. He said Savage specifically pointed to the recent case of Brittany Murray, the 21-year-old highway flag worker who was struck and killed just outside Winnipeg in 2010.
The Crown laid a dangerous driving causing death charge in that case, only to have it end in an acquittal at trial. Savage was involved in prosecuting the driver who walked free.
"It feels like because he didn't win that one, he doesn't even want to try here," said Haug, who would prefer to see justice officials go down swinging rather than simply not taking any kind of shot at all.
"It's a lack of justice," he said.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2014 A3
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