Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Was driver in fatal crash drunk and texting?

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Emergency personnel had to cut the roof and a door off Mark Derry's car after it was hit on Dugald Road. Derry died as a result of the collision.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Emergency personnel had to cut the roof and a door off Mark Derry's car after it was hit on Dugald Road. Derry died as a result of the collision. Photo Store

Was it a tragic collision in unavoidable circumstances that claimed an innocent driver's life?

Or was it a preventable car wreck: a crime triggered by a suspected impaired motorist allegedly distracted from the road by texting on his cellphone?

These questions are at the heart of a long-awaited trial that got underway in Winnipeg Monday.

Vann Hansell, 22, has pleaded not guilty to several charges, including criminal negligence, dangerous driving and impaired driving causing the death of Mark Derry in a Sept. 6, 2011 evening crash on Dugald Road. He is presumed innocent.

Derry, 53, died in hospital hours after his Dodge Neon was struck by Hansell's Toyota truck.

Prosecutors allege Hansell was impaired and using his cellphone when he failed to notice a vehicle stopped on Dugald near Goodyear Avenue, waiting for a city water crew to stop blocking traffic as they moved equipment.

Court heard Monday Hansell's truck swerved into the oncoming lane and bashed Derry's vehicle nearly head on before becoming airborne for a time and landing on the passenger side in the road.

Derry's car -- outweighed by the truck by 482 kilograms -- was severely damaged.

Emergency crews had to cut off the roof and a door in order to pull Derry from the vehicle.

Winnipeg police Const. Sylvio Hogue, a traffic reconstruction analyst, testified Derry would have had no time to react to the eastbound truck swerving into his lane on the two-way street.

Hogue estimated Hansell was not travelling more than the posted speed limit of 70 km/h.

He conceded, his speed estimate wasn't based on math, but instead on what witnesses told police.

There was virtually no physical evidence at the crash site to definitely say how fast Hansell was going, court heard.

There were no skid marks on the road, Hogue said.

Hansell told police after his arrest he was travelling 62 km/h, Hogue testified.

Still, Derry wouldn't have been able to avoid the collision, Hogue said.

"Likely (the truck) had been in the lane in less than a second," he said.

He theorized any evasive manoeuvre made by Derry would have seen the truck slam straight into his car door.

Photographs presented to Court of Queen's Bench Justice Colleen Suche show there were two orange road signs near the scene alerting drivers to road work.

After the crash, beer bottles, cans and other debris littered the street. It was not clear if they came from Hansell's vehicle, and if so, whether from inside the cab or from the bed of the pickup.

An iPhone was found among the items inside the truck and was seized as evidence.

In his opening statement, Crown attorney Mark Kantor alleged Hansell took a breath test in hospital and blew a "warn," which means there was some alcohol in his body, the grey area between 0.05 and 0.08 blood-alcohol content.

Police then got a warrant to obtain his blood, Kantor said. An RCMP toxicologist will be called to testify about her analysis.

Defence lawyers Sheldon Pinx and Katherine Smith have signalled they plan to contest the lawful chain of custody of the blood sample.

james.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 13, 2014 A3

History

Updated on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 9:41 AM CDT: Replaces photo

May 14, 2014 at 11:52 AM: Corrects blood-alcohol content figures.

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