Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Youth shoulders guilt for fatal car crash

Driving too fast in 2012 city crash

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Julia Romanow-Bear, 17, was thrown from the vehicle and killed in the Nov. 1, 2012 crash.


Julia Romanow-Bear, 17, was thrown from the vehicle and killed in the Nov. 1, 2012 crash. Photo Store

AN astonishing degree of human forgiveness was on display in a Winnipeg courtroom Wednesday after a young, inexperienced driver who was speeding and killed a classmate stepped up to admit full responsibility.

The man, 18, pleaded guilty in youth court to dangerous driving causing the death of Julia Romanow-Bear, 17, after a devastating crash on Wellington Crescent on Nov. 1, 2012. Because he was charged as a youth, he cannot be identified.

Three other passengers in the Pontiac SUV he was piloting were also hurt. Two spent time in hospital with serious injuries, Judge Heather Pullan was told.

All the occupants were students at Kelvin High School and away from school on a noon-hour break.

The offender lost control on a steep curve in the road half a kilometre west of the St. James Bridge and smashed into a tree.

The data recorder from the vehicle showed it was moving at 108 km/h in what is a 50 km/h zone, Crown attorney Susan Baragar said. Romanow-Bear was in the rear of the Pontiac Torrent and was thrown from it.

The youth at the wheel had received his intermediate licence only six weeks before, Pullan was told.

Despite the tragedy, the surviving victims, their families and Romanow-Bear's parents all asked the young driver be spared jail.

They indicated locking him up would serve no useful purpose, given his genuine remorse and the efforts he's made to make amends after the crash, which was described in court as "a tragic mistake."

"In many respects, the pain and anguish (he) and his parents have experienced is worse than what we have gone through. The fact that he continued to attend school and graduated while confronting this speaks to his strength of character and support of his family," the survivors and their families wrote in a joint letter to the Crown.

After the fatal crash, the teen went alone to meet Romanow-Bear's parents and personally apologize, Baragar said. "I cannot think of something more difficult than that, but he did it, and he did it by himself," she said.

The girl's parents agreed it would be more beneficial if he were to give talks to young people about what happened in hopes it would deter them from making the same mistake. They were not present for the sentencing.

"This young man is willing to try and bring that deterrent effect by spreading the word," defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg said. "This is something he's going to carry with him for the rest of his life."

Pullan agreed with the lawyers' recommendation the youth shouldn't go to jail. She put him on probation for two years. The conditions include giving four talks to school-age youth about the crash. Pullan also barred him from driving for two years.

He was seen wiping away tears several times during the hearing as his ashen-faced parents looked on.

"The outcome of your conduct was an unspeakable tragedy beyond words," Pullan told him.

"And I know that you know this, but I'm going to say it anyway. The impact of your behaviour on (the surviving victims) was significant and the loss of Julia is unspeakable... What happened here is every parent's nightmare."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2014 A3

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