Trial in Coldstream fatal pedestrian accident unfolding

RCMP reconstructionist among first witnesses called to testify in connection with April 30, 2010 accident that killed Kiera-Leigh Carlson...

An RCMP motor vehicle collision reconstructionist took the stand on day two of a scheduled seven-day trial into a fatal 2010 Coldstream pedestrian accident.

Sgt. Brian Nightingale told Vernon Supreme Court Tuesday that Kiera-Leigh Carlson was struck by a northbound vehicle as she walked on the southbound shoulder of Aberdeen Road the night of April 30, 2010.

He offered his conclusions at the trial of Chase Garett Donaldson, who is charged with one count of dangerous driving causing death and one count of failing to stop at an accident causing bodily harm in connection with Carlson’s death on April 30, 2010.

Carlson was struck by a car along Aberdeen Road sometime before 9 p.m. as she walked to work at a downtown Vernon nightclub.

Her body was discovered the next morning near the offices of the Regional District of North Okanagan.

“The pedestrian was in a northbound direction on the southbound shoulder, walking at that location when she was struck by a vehicle on the wrong side of the road,” said Nightingale under questioning from Crown lawyer Iain Currie.

Nightingale, who has done 650 technical investigations in his career, and testified at more than 100 investigations, told the court – the case is being heard by Supreme Court judge Frank Cole alone – that based on calculations from a number of formulas, the estimated speed of the vehicle that hit Carlson was travelling between 61 and 71 km/hour.

Nightingale was first called to the scene on Saturday, May 1, arriving at 6:50 a.m. He told court that he collected 74 total exhibits from the scene, and photographed them all.

He said a vehicle mirror found at the scene belonged to Donaldson’s Impreza, and noted that Donaldson’s car had damage to a left front headlight, which Nightingale concluded was the original impact spot.

Nightingale also said there was a “significant dent” to the side of the car at the fender above the left wheel.

“Both are consistent with this vehicle’s traveling at an angle and consistent to the road marks,” said Nightingale.

A third dent was found above the driver’s side window.

Glenn Verdurmen, one of Donaldson’s two defence lawyers (Paul Danyliu is the other), questioned Nightingale about the RCMP’s securing of the accident scene, asking if it was possible that pedestrians may have moved some of the evidence from the time Carlson was hit until the time her body was discovered the following morning.

“There’s no possibility of picking things up. People don’t do that,” said Nightingale.

“There’s no possibility anything was moved?” asked Verdurmen.

“It’s possible but not logical,” replied Nightingale. “It’s a rural road. There’s not a lot of people out on the road.”

The first two witnesses called Monday were Dave and Beth Regehr, a Coldstream couple who both testified they had been out for dinner at a Vernon restaurant on April 30, 2010, and were returning home on Highway 6.

Dave Regehr, who was driving, told court that as he turned onto Aberdeen Road, “there was a car coming in my lane.”

“My wife screamed, I could see the headlights of the oncoming car and it was going at a high speed,” said Dave Regehr. “I hadn’t got to my lane yet. I went right across so I wouldn’t be hit by him.”

Both Regehrs said after they pulled over on the correct side of the road, the suspect car “made two or three small manoeuvres” and pulled in behind them.

They were unable to get the licence plate number.

However, when the vehicle made a U-turn, they followed the car back towards Vernon on Highway 6 and were able to get its licence plate number.

They called 911 and stopped at a police officer friend’s house to describe what happened.

It wasn’t until the following morning that police told Beth Regehr they may have been witnesses to a serious accident.

Dave Regehr told court he went for a bike ride past the scene Saturday morning and thought “another accident had taken place at the same site.” It wasn’t until nearly four hours into his ride that Beth phoned him to say the police wanted to talk to them.

He said he rode by the scene again, on his way home, saw a tarp, and “became emotional because he realized somebody had died there.”

Both witnesses told the court they never saw a pedestrian.

Defence hammered away at the Regehrs’ testimony, with Danyliu noting that Beth Regehr, in her court testimony, said the oncoming car “never swerved,” but pointed out she said four times that the car “swerved into their lane” during a preliminary inquiry in 2011.

Carlson’s parents were on hand, joined by more than 20 supporters, all wearing purple – Kiera’s favourite colour.

Currie is expected to wrap up his case today. Verdurmen did not say how many witnesses he would be calling.