Emotional start to trial

Passenger testifies Stapleton was driving 120 km/h before crash

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on November 16, 2010

A woman burst into tears and ran out of the courtroom Monday upon hearing details about the car accident that killed her daughter last fall.

Proceedings stopped for a few moments as the sobs of Kimberley Clowe filled the room.

At the time, her daughter’s friend Heather Hiscock was on the stand, recounting the moment she regained consciousness after the crash only to find Kayla Reid missing from the car.

Reid, 23, had been ejected from the car. Her body was later found by police about 50 to 100 feet away from the crash scene.

Hiscock also cried when she saw Clowe so emotional. Just feet away from the witness stand, Natasha Stapleton sat in the prisoner’s dock, also sobbing.

Stapleton, 23, faces charges of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. She was charged following the single-vehicle accident Oct. 3, 2009 on Blackhead Road.

Stapleton lost control of the car that left the road, hit a guard rail and went airbourne down over an embankment, snapping off trees, before coming to a smashing halt in the woods.

Police estimated Stapleton was driving at 127 km/hr.

Her speed frightened Hiscock, who testified that she noticed the speedometer hit 120 km/hr a few minutes before the crash.

“I got nervous,” she said. “I don’t like fast drivers … Kayla was scared, too.”

Hiscock, who was in the back seat with Reid, suffered a hit on the head, which required stitches, a black eye and a back injury.

She spent three days in hospital recovering.

Celina Thomlyn, who was in the front passenger seat, didn’t regain consciousness for three weeks.

Her injuries included bleeding on the brain, a collapsed lung, a bruised heart and kidney, optic nerve damage to her eye, a mangled right arm which required extensive surgery and serious ligament damage in her knees.

“I was in bad shape,” said Thomlyn, who was on life support for much of her month-long hospital stay.

When she walked into court, she was limping and wearing a patch over her right eye.

“I see double and everything is distorted if it’s not covered,” she said of her eye.

She also has problems with memory since the accident.

Thomlyn testified she doesn’t remember much of that night only getting in the car with Stapleton.

Stapleton — who had had her licence for less than a month — had bought a car the day before and called Thomlyn, a friend from high school, and asked her to go for a drive.

Thomlyn was at Hiscock’s house at the time, but Stapleton suggested to bring her and Reid along.

Stapleton picked up the three women on McKay Street at around 10 p.m.

Hiscock had a better recollection of that night.

She said after they got in the car with Stapleton, they went to a store in Shea Heights and bought Red Bull energy drinks.

At Stapleton’s suggestion, they headed for Cape Spear.

The crash happened five minutes after they left the store parking lot, Hiscock said.

“The car started to swerve to the right,” Hiscock said, demonstrating the motion. “(Stapleton) tried to stop going into the rocks and then the car swerved to the left.

“She tried to stop, but we went over an embankment.”

Hiscock estimates she lost consciousness for only a few minutes.

“When I came to, I looked around and Kayla wasn’t there,” she said. “I started shouting to Celina ‘Wake up! Wake up!’ But she wouldn’t wake up.”

Hiscock managed to climb out of her seat, up over the embankment and flagged down a car.

She said everyone in the car was wearing a seatbelt.

But RNC Const. Karen Didham, a collision analyst, testified earlier that only Stapleton and Thomlyn were wearing seatbelts.

Didham was also the officer who interviewed Stapleton a few days after the accident.

The video of the interview was played in court.

In the interview, Stapleton told Didham they were going for a drive to Cape Spear when her earring got caught in her hair.

She said she flicked her hair and her glasses fell off her face.

She said she was travelling about 65 km/hr at the time, and while keeping her eyes on the road, she searched for her glasses and put her foot on the brake to slow down.

That’s the last thing she said she remembered.

Didham, however, told her the investigation indicated the car was travelling at 127 km/hr and that a passenger saw the speedometre hit 120 km/hr.

“Is it possible that your foot hit the accelerator instead of the brake? … How can you explain this?” Didham asked her.

“I don’t know,” Stapleton replied.

“I really don’t remember much.”

Hiscock testified she doesn’t recall Stapleton losing her glasses.

The trial continues today.