Accused in fatal crash elects judge, jury

Defence lawyer says his client will be in court for preliminary inquiry

Rosie Mullaley
Published on March 19, 2014
Anthony Hynes, stepbrother of Nicholas Coates — who was killed in a crash while riding his motorcycle last August — holds a picture of Coates in provincial court in St. John’s Tuesday when the case of suspected drunk driver Ronald Thistle was called. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

A suspected drunk driver charged in connection with a fatal accident last summer hasn’t been seen in court yet.

But the family the friends of Nicholas Coates — the victim of the crash — made sure Coates’ face won’t be forgotten.

When the case of Ronald Thistle was called in provincial court in St. John’s Tuesday,  Anthony Hynes sat in Courtroom No. 7 holding a picture of his stepbrother, who was killed while riding his motorcycle on Kenmount Road last summer.

Hynes was among about a dozen of Coates’ family members and friends who have consistently shown up each time Thistle’s case has come before a judge.

Thistle — who was released from custody shortly after his arrest — was once again represented by lawyer Bob Simmonds Tuesday.

Simmonds told Judge Pamela Goulding that they are electing for Thistle to be tried by judge and jury at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court.

He said they have also decided to have a preliminary inquiry.

The inquiry determines whether there is enough evidence to take the case to trial. It’s also an opportunity for lawyers to gauge the evidence which would be presented at trial. It is scheduled for Sept. 8-12.

Simmonds later told The Tele-gram that Thistle is expected to appear in person for the inquiry.

“A lawyer can request for a client to be excused, but when evidence is called, as it will be in the preliminary inquiry, I like to have my clients there,” Simmonds said.

The 65-year-old Thistle, who lives in Kilbride, was said to have been driving a pickup on Aug. 16 when he pulled out of Polina Road onto Kenmount Road, causing Coates’ east-bound motorcycle to crash into the side of Thistle’s truck.

Coates, 27, was rushed to hospital, and later died from his injuries.



Thistle faces charges of impaired driving causing death, as well as causing death by having a blood-alcohol level above the legal amount.

Simmonds and Crown prosecutor Phil LeFeuvre indicated that by June 2 they will file statements of issues, which clear up various legal points before proceeding. A focus hearing to discuss the case with the judge is set for July 15.

Thistle’s case was called a day after blood donor clinics held in Coates’ honour took place at All Saints Parish Hall in Conception Bay South and Wicklow Street in St. John’s.

The clinic was the idea of Coates’ mother, Linda Coates, who told The Telegram she wanted some good to come from her son’s death.

“I have to find some sense, some normality about why this happened,” she said Monday. “There has to be a reason. … This is a way for us to heal.”

Twitter: @TelyCourt