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Taxi driver takes the stand in trial of man charged in fatal snowmobile accident at Humber Valley Resort

Thomas Whittle is representing himself in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook on charges related to the 2017 death of Justyn Pollard in a snowmobile accident at Humber Valley Resort.
Thomas Whittle is representing himself in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook on charges related to the 2017 death of Justyn Pollard in a snowmobile accident at Humber Valley Resort.
CORNER BROOK, N.L. —

Jonathan Hardy recalled seeing a light coming toward him, telling the passengers in the taxi he was driving to brace themselves, then hearing a loud noise and seeing something hit the windshield, as he spoke about the events of Feb. 19, 2017 in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in Corner Brook on Thursday.

About 4 a.m. that day, Hardy, then a driver for Birchy Cabs in Corner Brook, was taking a group of passengers to the Humber Valley Resort.

He testified that he saw the light just before entering the bridge to the resort and he tried to pull off it, which proved futile, as the source of that light, a snowmobile, collided with the driver’s side of the minivan he was driving.

Justyn Pollard, a 21-year-old man from St. John’s, died of injuries he sustained in the crash, and 30-year-old Thomas Whittle of Conception Bay South is now on trial for causing his death.

Whittle is charged with impaired driving by alcohol causing death, impaired driving causing death with a blood alcohol concentration exceeding 80 milligrams, dangerous driving causing death and impaired driving by drug causing death.

Hardy was the first of five Crown witnesses to be called Thursday morning.

When he got out of the taxi, he said, he saw one man sitting in the middle of the road and another man lying on the ground behind the van. That man was Pollard, and Hardy said he looked like he was asleep on the road and wasn’t moving.

Later, Shawn Leamon, chief of the Steady Brook Little Rapids Regional Fire Service, testified that Pollard was unresponsive when he checked on him after arriving at the scene.

Leamon was deputy chief at the time and the first emergency responder on the scene.

He said a woman, who identified herself as a medical student from St. John’s, and others had been providing first aid treatment and had put Pollard in a recovery position on his left side. His breathing was laboured and his muscles had started to tighten and lock up. Leamon said he determined there was nothing else he could do for Pollard.

When asked about the clothing Whittle and Pollard had been wearing, Leamon said he remembered it because it was unusual. Neither were dressed for snowmobiling, and he saw no mitts, helmets or jackets.

Whittle had arm and leg injuries and was placed on a backboard by paramedics. He was asked if he had any pain.

“And his reply was, ‘I’ve got a good buzz on. I’m not feeling any pain,’” said Leamon.

Leamon said there were no obvious signs that Whittle was under the influence, and it was possible not feeling pain could be related to trauma and adrenaline.

Joe Vokey, another cab driver, testified about coming upon the accident while leaving the resort. He and a third cab driver both stopped at the scene and moved the snowmobile a few feet from where it sat upside down, he said.

Vokey said they did it to provide better access to the area, and both left the area shortly after.

Michelle Field, a resident of the resort, testified hearing the snowmobile coming off the resort fast and the light coming in her bedroom window. She heard a big bang and waited to hear a splash, as she thought it hit the guardrail.

Field said she knew the situation was bad and had planned to go out, but didn’t because she wasn’t feeling well.

Alex Robbins of St. John’s was a passenger in Hardy’s taxi. He was in the front passenger seat and was turned around talking with his friends when they approached the resort bridge, and testified that he recalled Hardy saying, "Oh, my God, they’re going to hit us."

Robbins said he was a bit disoriented after the crash, but saw two men lying on the ground unconscious, but didn’t recall how far apart they were. They weren’t wearing helmets or jackets, he said.

He said one of them woke up and seemed disoriented.

“Kept repeating, ‘Is everybody OK,’ and said that he wasn’t driving.”

One of Robbins' friends tried to calm him.

The trial continues Friday.

Diane Crocker reports on west coast news.
 

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