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Verdict in Arens trial expected on Tuesday

A Central Alberta man accused of causing a fatal collision in Red Deer almost four years ago will learn his fate on Tuesday.

Just before the Canada Day fireworks were to start on the evening of July 1, 2010, a pickup truck collided with a small car at the intersection of Kerry Wood and Taylor Drives, where hundreds of pedestrians were walking toward Bower Ponds to join in the festivities.

Front-seat passenger Jeffrey Chanminaraj, 13, was killed in the impact. His brother Jamie Chanminaraj, 18, had been sitting in the back. He suffered severe injuries and was airlifted to Foothills Hospital in Calgary for treatment. The car was driven by their 20-year-old sister, Stephanie Chanminaraj, who was also treated for injuries.

Justice Kirk Sisson is to return a verdict on Tuesday morning for pickup truck driver Rodney Ross Arens, 36, who has been on trial in the Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench on charges laid in connection with the collision.

Arens is charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and breaching conditions of a court order by consuming alcohol.

Additional charges of failing to provide breath samples in relation to an injury and fatal collision were withdrawn during the early stages of the trial.

Defense counsel Donna Derie-Gillespie of Sundre, in her closing arguments on Wednesday afternoon, said the Crown has not produced enough evidence to prove that Arens was impaired by alcohol or that he was driving dangerously at the time of the collision.

She pointed to contradictory testimony and raised questions about speed calculations by an RCMP collision reconstructionist in suggesting alternate theories to what had happened on that night.

Maybe the truck wasn’t speeding, she said. Maybe the car darted in front of it.

While the analysis gives the speed the vehicles had reached at the time of the collision, there is no evidence to show whether either vehicle had stopped, sped up or slowed down immediately beforehand, said Derie-Gillespie.

Nor is there enough evidence to indicate that Arens was impaired at the time of the crash, although three different witnesses testified that he had been drinking earlier in the day, she said.

Derie-Gillespie cast doubt on some of the testimony entered in the Crown’s case, stating that, in their efforts to be helpful, witness had reached beyond what they actually saw and created faulty pictures of the collision scene.

She characterized one police officer’s account of Arens “pouring” himself out of his truck and “walking like a baby” as hyperbole, stating that it was more like a cartoon than an accurate account of what the officer had actually observed.

Derie-Gillespie said she would not contest the charge of breaching an undertaking, acknowledging that her client had been served a total of four drinks in two different bars on the day of the crash.

Crown prosecutor Wayne Silliker said there is enough corroborating evidence from civilians and other witnesses at the scene to suggest that the car had nearly completed a left turn in the intersection when the speeding truck accelerated into the intersection as the traffic control lights turned from green to yellow.

People heard the sound of the truck revving up. One driver, who had grown impatient while waiting to turn left onto Kerry Wood Drive, had nosed into the adjoining lane, but changed his mind when he saw the truck coming in his rear view mirror.

Silliker argued that Arens was impaired enough that he was not able to control his own body and was therefore not fit to drive a motor vehicle.

He went on to state that Arens did a number of things that a reasonable driver would not do, including failing to brake for a vehicle that had edged into his lane, speeding up to make a yellow light and failing to brake for a vehicle that was already in the intersection when he got there.

He went on to state that a reasonable person would have been aware of the festivities in the area and would not have been speeding through an intersections where hundreds of people, including small children, were waiting to cross.

Although he was released on bail on the charges currently before the court, Arens has been denied bail and remains in pre-trial custody on more recent charges.

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