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Driver takes stand in fatal Coldstream accident trial
He said he remembered details of his trip up Aberdeen Road, the speed he was going, the weather.
But what Crown counsel wanted to know of the accused, Chase Garett Donaldson, was how he could not remember making what Crown termed the most important phone call of his life – that being to 911 after he allegedly struck and killed Kiera-Leigh Carlson as she walked along Aberdeen Road the night of April 30, 2010.
Donaldson, 29, has pleaded not guilty to one count each of dangerous driving causing death and failing to stop at an accident causing bodily harm in connection with an incident on Aberdeen Road April 30, 2010 in Carlson’s death.
Crown counsel Iain Currie spent most of Tuesday in Donaldson’s Supreme Court trial in Vernon poking away at Donaldson’s testimony after he was placed on the stand by his lawyers, Glenn Verdurmen and Paul Danyliu.
Currie pointed out to Donaldson, who testified he was alone in his vehicle that night, that records from the accused’s cell phone show a call to 911 was made shortly after the time Carlson was struck.
“The reason you called 911 was because you believed you might have hit a person,” said Currie.
“That the repercussions of this were so urgent that you had to conclude not if you hit a person, but if a person was dead or dying. As a result, you dialed 911.”
“No,” said Donaldson.
“No?” asked Currie.
“I don’t remember dialing 911.”
“It was a time of your life when you had a reason to call 911,” said Currie.
“Yes,” answered Donaldson, who earlier testified that on April 30, 2010, he had been at a family function in the Bella Vista area, had two beers and returned to his Coldstream house.
He said he got the keys to the family car, a 2006 Subaru Impreza, and was heading to his brother-in-law’s house for a couple of hours. He left the house around 8:30 p.m.
Donaldson testified that “it was starting to drizzle and that the pavement was starting to get wet.”
He said he was going along Kalamalka Road when he turned onto Aberdeen Road.
“I was in fourth gear and going about 70 km/hour until the S curve, which is a gradual right, then a sharp curve,” said Donaldson. “I was slowing down to about 55 in the S curve. You can’t go faster than 50 in the left turn so I slowed down.”
Under cross examination, Currie poked away at that statement, saying it was impossible to gear down from fourth gear to third gear and slow 15 km/h.
“You would have lost control of your car if you were driving 60 km/h in the S curve,” Currie asked of Donaldson.
“Yes,” was the reply.
“Can you make it if you start the S curve at 60 and slow in the middle?” asked Currie.
“Possibly,” said Donaldson.
“Did you try to do that that night?”
“I slowed down before I got into the S curve. I was going less than 60 km/h and before the sharp left in the S curve I was going less than 50,” said Donaldson, who added he couldn’t say when he geared down in his vehicle before the sharp left turn.
“Sometime before it and halfway through it I slowed down,” he said.
Donaldson, who testified that he had laser eye surgery in 2007 which improved his eyesight but “at night the glare of lights seem really bright,” said that after he got past the S curve, he could see the intersection of Aberdeen Road and Highway 6, and that there was tall grass along the right-hand side so he couldn’t see any traffic at the intersection.
“Through the last right-hand curve, I looked in the rearview mirror, didn’t see anything, then saw a flash of headlights coming toward me,” said Donaldson. “I was scared of a head-on collision. I went left and accelerated into the oncoming lane. The headlights were straight in front of me coming toward me. I did not see anything else besides the headlights.”
Donaldson said as the headlights went by his car on the right, he was looking at the car and started to steer his car to the right as it hit the shoulder, spitting up gravel.
Then, he said, he felt a thump.
“I was still looking right and saw a streak out of my left eye go over the top of the windshield,” he said.
Donaldson told court he went back on three occasions – twice that night and once the next morning in daylight – to see if he could see anything he might have hit. He also said his wife went to look twice and did not see anything.
“I was shook up, scared and worried about what I hit,” he said. “I was worried I’d hit a person.”
Currie spent Monday hammering away at the testimony of defence witness Kurt Isling, a Vancouver-based professional engineer.
Isling, an expert in accident reconstruction, driver visibility, pedestrian impact and driver response times, testified his report on the accident differed from RCMP traffic reconstructionist expert Brian Nightingale’s testimony because “Nightingale used different factual assumptions than in my report.”
In his report, Isling said one option that could have happened was Donaldson’s claim that he swerved to the left to avoid an oncoming vehicle in his lane that had turned off Highway 6.
Currie said Donaldson had a clear view of a truck with its red taillights engaged stopped at Highway 6 prior to seeing the headlights of the oncoming vehicle.
The case continues today.