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Senack defence says speed, cellphone distraction caused fatal 2017 Calabogie crash

Jacob McGrimmon, 22, one of the two survivors of that deadly midnight crash, returned to the witness box for the second consecutive day and was cross-examined by the defence team.

Ann Senack's defence lawyers are laying out their strategy in the trial where the former Shooters Bar & Grill bartender is facing two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in relation to a fatal crash near Burnstown.

Defence council Michael Edelson is using the official technical crash report from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in an effort to shift the blame away from his client, who is accused of serving alcohol to the then-under-aged men on October 27, 2017. Edelson says excessive speed, cellphone distractions and alcohol all played a part in the moments leading up to the crash.

Edelson, along with co-counsel Tony Paciocco, are pointing to findings in the police report, which says the vehicle hit a gravel shoulder of the road at 127 kilometres an hour in an 80 zone.

Within the police report, experts in the field of vehicular collisions noted the vehicle experienced a steer reversal and rotated clockwise onto the southbound shoulder where it entered the southbound ditch. Senack's defence presented various sections of the 170-page police report, which concluded the left side of the vehicle made contact with an exposed rock face before the front of the vehicle struck another large rock and the car rolled, driver side over passenger side.

Experts determined the vehicle was travelling between 63 and 77 kilometres an hour when it started rolling. It rolled severa l times before finally coming to a stop about a half-kilometre before Burnstown.

The collision happened a few minutes past midnight, approximately 20 minutes after the four men left Shooters Bar & Grill where it is alleged Senack served the four men approximately 50 drinks within a two-hour time frame.

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Jacob McGrimmon, 22, one of the two survivors of that deadly midnight crash, returned to the witness box for the second consecutive day and was cross-examined by the defence team.

During an exchange between Edelson and McGrimmon, the seasoned lawyer questioned the young man about the 15-pack of beer found in the back seat and some empty beer containers found near the crash site. He wanted to know how much alcohol was consumed by the occupants before and after their arrival at Shooters.

As he did during his first day of testimony, McGrimmon said he remembers very little in the hours leading up to the crash, and that included his inability to recall if any of the four men drank alcohol inside the car in the time periods posed by Edelson. However, the 22-year-old did recall that all four of them lied to members of the Shooter’s staff that they had placed a call for a taxi and they were waiting for its arrival.

Moments later, video surveillance footage captured the four men exiting the bar and getting into a car as they left for Renfrew.

The trial resumes on Thursday, when the fourth man and second survivor of the crash, Ben Schuneman, is expected to take the stand. He will be questioned by Assistant Crown Attorney Richard Morris about his recollections of that evening.

Although both survived the ordeal, they suffered extensive injuries. McGrimmon suffered a broken arm and required the insertion of a titanium rod to help repair several damaged areas. Schuneman was listed as being in critical condition just after the incident and was transported to an Ottawa Hospital where he remained for months undergoing intensive rehabilitation in order to regain mobility in his limbs.

Five full days are devoted to the trial this week and proceedings will resume in mid-May. Senack is being tried in the Ontario Court of Justice and her defence team opted with trial by judge alone. Justice Hugh Fraser is presiding over the case. If found guilty of the four charges, Senack could face more than ten years in prison.

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