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Accused testifies in dangerous driving case

All witnesses have been called, examined and cross-examined in the jury trial of a woman accused of dangerous driving in relation to a fatal collision.

Cherish Elsie Schutte, 24, of Canwood, Sask., admitted in Red Deer Queen’s Bench court to driving the northbound pickup truck that collided with a westbound pickup on Aug. 29, 2010, at the intersection of Hwys 21 and 11.

Donna Ann Johnson, 47, of Parkside, Sask., Schutte’s mother, was in the truck with Schutte and killed at the scene of the crash.

Eric Comeau, 26 at the time, of Consort, was injured at scene. He was in the other vehicle involved in the crash.

Defence attorney Eamon O’Keefe called Schutte to the stand on Tuesday afternoon after the Crown had called its last witness earlier in the day.

Schutte said she was driving to a cousin’s wedding at Pine Lake with her mother on Aug. 27, 2010, from Schutte’s then home in Lloydminster. On Aug. 29 at about 11 a.m., Schutte said they left, adding she did not consume alcohol at any point in the weekend, as the wedding took place at the Salvation Army camp at Pine Lake.

She said for the drive home, she set her cruise control to 108 km/h, as she usually does for long trips.

As she approached the intersection, she remembers seeing the Important Intersection Ahead sign and the next thing she said she saw was truck headlights in her peripheries.

“I inhaled and that’s it,” said Schutte, adding she didn’t have time to react.

Schutte said she was unfamiliar with the drive and didn’t think she would have to stop after the important intersection sign, but she would have stopped if she saw the sign.

After the collision, Schutte said she tried to get a response from her mother but was unable. She said “Don’t leave me,” to her mother as witnesses rushed to help.

Leading up to the intersection, Schutte said she doesn’t remember seeing any other signs or feeling any vibrations from the rumble strips.

Prior to Schutte’s testimony, the Crown called Cpl. Donavan Gulak, an RCMP collision reconstruction analyst.

Gulak said the Important Intersection Ahead sign was 630 metres from the stop line at the intersection of Hwys 11 and 21. There were also five sets of rumble strips, a Stop Sign Ahead sign leading to the intersection and a 1.2-metre-by-1.2 metre Stop sign with a flashing red light above the sign at the intersection for drivers traveling on Hwy 21.

He said that through his investigation, he determined that Schutte’s pickup was travelling at 76 km/h while the other truck was travelling at 97 km/h. However, he noted that the calculations he used in his investigation do not account for how the collision would affect speed.

He said there were four points of impact in his report. The initial impact for the Schutte’s truck was at the front of the vehicle, while the other vehicle suffered damage on the driver side. After the initial impact, Gulak said the two vehicles collided again, this time parallel, for what he called a “side-slap.” Then both vehicles entered the ditch with the Schutte’s truck colliding with a light stand with its tailgate and the other vehicle striking a barbed-wire fence.

Closing arguments are today.

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