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Survivor of deadly 2017 crash says they drank in car prior to arriving at Calabogie bar

On the ninth day of the trial, survivor Ben Scheuneman testified to the events that led up to the deadly crash.
2017-12-07 Shooters Bar and Grill
Shooter's Bar and Grill, 2017. Photo/ Google Maps

Ben Scheuneman testified that he and his three friends, who were all 18 at the time, drank beer while driving to Shooters Bar & Grill where they consumed several alcoholic drinks, and in his opinion, all four appeared to be, or very close to being impaired prior to leaving the bar. 

He testified that all four men left the now-closed Calabogie establishment in a vehicle driven by Brandon Hanniman moments before their car smashed into a rock face.

Driving 127 km/h in a posted 80 km/h, Hanniman lost control of the car and it crashed into a rock face on Calabogie Road resulting in the death of Hanniman and Alex Paquette and seriously injuring Jacob McGrimmon and Scheuneman.

Scheuneman's admission came on the ninth day of the trial of Ann Senack. In 2019, she was charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm in relation to the fatal crash in the early hours of October 27, 2017.

The 64-year old Senack was a bartender at the bar and it is alleged she served approximately 56 alcoholic drinks to the four under-aged men prior to them leaving Shooters and less than 30-minutes from when the collision occurred near Burnstown.

Assistant-Crown Attorney Caitlyn Downing questioned Scheuneman for most of the day and throughout his testimony, he also told the court when they entered the bar, Senack informed the group that a representative from the Liquor License Board was on site. 

When asked by Downing why the accused would tell them that, he replied that Senack was aware none of them were of legal drinking age. 

He testified all that although the young men were only 18 years, only he and Paquette were asked to provide identification prior to being served. He used his older brother's identification and Paquette was in possession of a fake ID. 

When asked if he was questioned on the validity of the identification by Shooter's staff, he replied no attempt was made to inquire as to his address, date of birth or to provide a signature to match his brother Austin's signature on the ID in his possession.

Both Downing and Scheuneman informed the court of the severity of his injuries and the extensive rehabilitation he underwent in order to regain basic motor functions and speech. When the crash occurred, he was assessed by members of the Renfrew County Paramedic Service and was transferred to the critical care unit of the Ottawa Hospital. 

He suffered a broken pelvis, broken collarbone and ruptured spleen. In addition to these injuries, his brain was bleeding in three spots that caused most of the damage. He spent three months in hospital and part of that time he was hooked up to a ventilator and a feeding tube was used to keep him alive. He said he completed his speech therapy in October 2020, three years after the collision.

Similar to when McGrimmon was on the stand, a series of videos taken from the bar's surveillance were introduced to the court and they showed the young men drinking and playing billiards. Downing asked Scheuneman if he and his friends appeared impaired to which he replied they appeared "wobbly and on their way to be impaired."

Downing also played a video clip from Hanniman's phone and it showed the four men, along with a fifth man, then 19-year old Alec Marcus, drinking shooters while all of them began howling like a wolf.

When asked the significance of howling, he told the court it was a rallying call for the Renfrew Timberwolves and because all were members of the Junior B hockey team, they would start howling while they were drinking.

Downing asked him if they howled frequently he told her they only howled in a group when they were drinking alcohol and did not recall performing the ritual when they were not drinking.

The issue of drug use was raised and Scheuneman told the court he and his friends did not use narcotics and stuck with alcohol. However, he did inform the court that about an hour prior to leaving Shooters, three of them returned from outside and there was an odor of marijuana on them.

Once again there were close to 70 individuals tuned into the virtual court link throughout the day. Because of COVID-19, the trial is being held in a virtual setting as opposed to an actual Ontario Court of Justice courtroom.

Scheuneman was to be on the stand most of Friday and be cross-examined by Michael Edelson and Tony Paciocco. They were retained by Senack after she was charged by the OPP. They are widely regarded as two of the country's most successful litigators and because of their experience their retainer fees are quite high. 

A GoFundMe account was set up by family and friends of Senack shortly after she was formally charged and within weeks, more than $55,000 was raised to help offset her legal costs.

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