Thomas Whittle told police he was on doomed snowmobile that killed man — he just 'wasn't driving' it

·3 min read

Jurors in Corner Brook provincial court Tuesday heard Thomas Whittle, accused of driving a snowmobile while drunk and killing his passenger, claim he wasn't operating the vehicle at the time of the lethal crash.

Crown prosecutor Renee Coates played an almost two-hour audio recording of an RCMP interview with Whittle conducted in March 2018, when he was arrested for impaired driving causing death.

Whittle can be heard agreeing that he was sitting on the front of the snowmobile, but denying he was the one driving it.

He told police that Justyn Pollard, who was sitting behind him, was actually operating the machine, with Pollard's hands on the handle bars, throttle and brake, while Whittle's hands rested on the centre of the machine, on a rubber handle in the middle.

Whittle claimed he had his hands close to the kill switch of the 2015 green and purple Bombardier Freestyle in case something went wrong.

Whittle faces four counts of impaired driving causing death in connection to the 2017 collision, when a snowmobile hurtled across a bridge at the Humber Valley Resort entrance and crashed into a taxi van, killing 21-year-old Pollard.

The RCMP interview with Const. John Galway continued playing in the courtroom for an hour and 45 minutes. Over the duration of the recording, Whittle repeatedly tells Galway that he "wasn't driving" and pleaded with the officer to believe him.

"I was a passenger in the front," he told Galway. "I am not going to be held responsible for something I didn't do."

Submitted by Sherry Pollard
Submitted by Sherry Pollard

Whittle tells Galway he remembers very little from that night except for waking up in a pile on the bridge.

On Wednesday, the jury heard a second police interview that was recorded just days after the incident took place. At the time, Whittle was recovering from his injuries at Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook.

Const. Paul Canning, the lead investigator on the case, collected a witness statement in which Whittle said he remembered seeing headlights coming toward him when he was on the bridge.

Whittle also told Canning he was not operating the vehicle and that Pollard was in control from the back of the snowmobile. An emotional Whittle cried several times while speaking with police.

Witness says footage shows front passenger driving

Coates asked Canning on the stand to describe a still photograph of the snowmobile, captured from surveillance footage taken near the Humber Valley Resort gatehouse at about 4 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2017.

Canning described the photo in detail, saying the driver in the front was in control and had both of his hands on the handlebars, while the passenger in the back had their hands around the driver's waist.

Each member of the jury, nine women and five men, was handed a copy of the picture.

The Crown has now finished presenting its case to the jury. Whittle, representing himself at the trial, can now call witnesses or testify, if he chooses.

The trial is scheduled until the end of January.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador