Trial continues in Corner Brook for man accused of dangerous driving, impaired driving causing death

·3 min read

Nine witnesses have taken the stand so far at the trial of Thomas Whittle in Corner Brook.

The 29-year-old is accused of dangerous driving causing death and impaired driving causing death after the snowmobile he was driving collided with a taxi near Marble Mountain in 2017.

Whittle's passenger, Justyn Pollard, was killed.

Whittle is representing himself at trial, and apologized to jurors as he cross-examined RCMP forensic identification specialist Constable Jonathan Moran for entering and examining Pollard's autopsy photographs.

Whittle said the photos would be hard for the jury of nine women and four men to see, but he requested they be entered as evidence so jurors could see bruising on Pollard's left hip and shoulder.

Family members of Pollard's were present in the courtroom as the photos scrolled across a projected screen as Moran described each one, and at least one of them was obviously distraught.

No helmets

So far, the court has heard from witnesses including taxi drivers, taxi passengers, first responders, police officers and residents of Humber Valley Resort.

They described seeing a snowmobile, going at a high speed, driving across a bridge around 4 a.m. on Feb. 19, 2017, and colliding head-on with a taxi van that had pulled over to the side of the entrance to the bridge.

Video surveillance of the crash was also presented at trial, and clearly showed a snowmobile moving quickly on the bridge.

Many witnesses testified that neither Whittle or Pollard were wearing helmets, winter coats, hats or mittens at the time.

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

The driver of the Dodge Caravan taxi van was John Hardy, who works for Birchy Cabs.

He told the court that Jibfest, a popular music festival at Marble Mountain, was happening that weekend and he was very busy bringing passengers back and forth from Humber Valley Resort to Marble Mountain.

Hardy told the court he was approaching the bridge to enter the resort when he saw a bright light coming toward him and quickly pulled over. He then told the front passenger, Alex Robbins, 'I think this is going to hit us, brace yourself'.

When Robins testified, he told Crown Attorney Renee Coates he can remember seeing two individuals on the ground near the snowmobile after the collision, and he recalls Whittle getting up and asking repeatedly if everyone was alright.

Robbins said Whittle was quite distraught.

Feeling no pain

Little Rapids and Steady Brook volunteer Fire Chief Shawn Leamon was one of the first people to arrive at the scene, moments after 4 a.m, and said Pollard was not responsive at that time.

Later, Pollard was taken to Western Memorial Regional Hospital and died of his injuries.

Leamon said he can remember hearing Whittle say to the paramedics, "I have a good buzz on. I'm not feeling any pain," as he was assisting him onto the stretcher and into the ambulance.

"There were no obvious signs that I could see any kind of alcohol or paraphernalia from drug use. Sometimes trauma can have an impact on an individual as well. The comment made me believe there were other factors involved," he said to the court.

Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Since Whittle is representing himself during the three-week-long trial, he frequently asks Justice George Murphy for breaks so he can consult with Randy Piercey; a criminal defence lawyer who was appointed by Justice Murphy to aid in proceedings, but not make decisions for Whittle.

The Crown will be calling witnesses for two or three more days, and then Whittle will have the opportunity to call his own evidence.

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