A Red Deer man was found not guilty on Friday of driving impaired or dangerously before a rollover crash near Sylvan Lake that killed his “best friend” and uncle.
Mathew Joseph Duda, 24, was charged with impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death more than 14 months after the June 4, 2008, collision on Hwy 11 about two km east of Sylvan Lake. A charge of failing to remain at the scene of an accident was later withdrawn.
At first, Duda denied being behind the wheel but confessed to being the driver in August 2009 during an interview at Bowden Institution, where he was serving time on other offences.
Ross Loblaw, 36, of Delburne died after he was thrown from the truck when it rolled several times after hitting the grassed median about 3 a.m. as the two returned to Red Deer after being at a Rocky Mountain House bar. Loblaw died at the scene and was found by passersby, who called police.
Duda testified this week that he went looking for help, passed out and then hitchhiked into Red Deer the next day.
Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Kirk Sisson said that while Duda, who has a long criminal record, was an “unreliable and self-serving witness,” there simply was not enough evidence to convict him of the two charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
“I would have preferred to convict you. But the evidence isn’t there,” said Sisson.
He said he didn’t know what Duda intended to do with his life but hoped that after the death of his uncle that he had “smartened up and his death is not for nothing.”