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Vehicle was in good condition, mechanic testifies during Steele-Young trial
At the time Morgan Pardy was ejected from her ex-boyfriend's Honda Civic on a snowy day in March 2017, it was travelling 130 km/h, accident investigators determined.
The trial of Joshua Steele-Young, 23, continued in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Monday, with testimony related to the car he was driving that morning on Pitts Memorial Highway, which crashed and rolled a number of times, sending Pardy into the air and leaving her paralyzed.
Mechanic Randy Biddiscombe, who was qualified by Justice Frances Knickle as an expert witness in his field, told the court he inspected the Civic after it was towed to the garage where he worked hours after the crash.
"The floor was the only thing that wasn't damaged," he explained.
Biddiscombe said the car had damage on all body panels, and all its windows were missing except for the windshield, which had been shattered and pushed into the driver's space. The side airbags had been deployed. The front bumper had been detached and the hood was folded and crumpled.
The left seatbelt was locked, Biddiscombe said, indicating Steele-Young, who was not seriously injured, had been wearing it. There was no evidence to suggest Pardy had been wearing hers in the front passenger seat.
Pardy, 23, has already testified to having removed her seatbelt after she and Steele-Young began arguing and he grew angry, speeding up. She said she had taken off the restraint when she demanded Steele-Young let her out of the vehicle.
Answering questions from prosecutor Jennifer Lundrigan, Biddiscombe said that particular model and year of vehicle has a warning chime and light to indicate if a front passenger has taken off their seatbelt.
On cross-examination by defence lawyer Randy Piercey, Biddiscombe said he was unable to determine if those indicators had been functioning prior to the crash.
There was nothing mechanically wrong with the car, he testified, apart from an issue with the rear back brake pads due to corrosion. They would have required more pressure from the driver to stop the vehicle, he explained.
"There's nothing to suggest a mechanical condition caused this collision," Biddiscombe told the court.
He said he spent between four and six hours inspecting the car before locking it in the garage for two days while police investigators obtained a warrant to seize the airbag control module, which contains the data recorder for the vehicle. When police arrived to take the module, Biddiscombe said, he unbolted it and handed it over.
Information from the data recorder revealed the speed of the vehicle at the time of the crash.
An RNC collision analyst was set to testify Monday about the information gleaned from the recorder, but will take the stand Thursday instead, after Piercey took issue with information in the analyst's report. He reportedly initially said the wheel position of the vehicle as indicated by the recorder was impossible, but later revised his view, causing Piercey to question the validity of the document. Piercey will spend the next couple of days consulting with an independent expert before the trial continues.
Steele-Young has pleaded not guilty to charges of forcible confinement and dangerous driving causing bodily harm in connection with the crash.
Pardy gave her evidence over two days last week, saying she had ended her five-month relationship with Steele-Young days before the crash, but had agreed to go for a drive with him so they could talk. He refused to let her out of the car when she demanded it, she said.
A number of other drivers on the highway that morning have also testified, with at least two saying they witnessed the crash and saw a person thrown from the car.
"She flew right up in the air, very high, probably higher than the telephone poles. I'll never forget it," testified one man, describing Pardy as "in position to make snow angels" as she was in the air.
After the collision analyst, Lundrigan is expected to call Pardy's neurosurgeon to testify before deciding whether or not to close her case and hand it over to the defence.
Twitter: @tara_ bradbury