A man facing impaired driving and dangerous driving causing death charges following a rollover accident that killed his uncle said on Wednesday he lied about being behind the wheel because he was scared of what his family would think of him.
“I didn’t know how anybody would take it,” testified Mathew Joseph Duda in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench during the second day of his trial.
Duda, who had been alienated from his family because of his frequent run-ins with the law, was starting to get his family back into his life when the rollover happened in the early hours of June 4, 2008. His uncle, Ross Loblaw, 36, of Delburne, was thrown from the truck and died at the scene.
The then-20-year-old tried to tell his mother what happened when he was being treated for a broken collarbone and ribs in hospital following the accident but couldn’t.
“How do you tell your mom you just killed her brother?”
In a tearful jailhouse videotaped interview with Sylvan Lake RCMP Cpl. Kevin Halwa, 14 months after the fatal collision, Duda finally confessed he was behind the wheel. The confession at Bowden Institution in August 2009 came after police came to collect a DNA sample to match it to blood found on the driver’s seat of the pickup.
The court heard that Duda met up with his uncle in Red Deer in the early evening of June 3, 2008. The pair went for dinner in town and then headed to Rocky Mountain House, but not before Loblaw stopped to pick up a case of beer at Burnt Lake just outside the city.
The two spent the evening at a tavern in Rocky, where Duda said he had only one beer, which he didn’t drain. At most he had two drinks on the night that went until last call at 2 a.m., he testified.
Since he had little to drink, Duda told police, he drove his uncle’s pickup back to Red Deer on Hwy 11. Just past the Hwy 20 intersection, Duda said he heard a bump from his uncle’s side of the cab around 3 a.m. When he looked over to see what happened he took his attention away from the road and hit the shoulder, where he believes he hit something.
“It made me lose total control and the truck just started rolling,” he said during the videotaped interview, adding he didn’t know how many times it flipped before coming to rest on its wheels. “By the time it stopped, my uncle wasn’t in the truck.”
He found his uncle, who had apparently taken off his seatbelt sometime before the rollover, lying in one of the eastbound lanes. When he couldn’t get him up, he said he went looking for help. He headed towards what he thought was a house but turned out to be a fenced propane tank, where he passed out.
When he came to, his uncle’s body and the mangled truck were gone. Only a few pieces of debris were left behind.
It took him three hours to hitch a ride back to Burnt Lake, where he phoned a cab and went to his ex-girlfriend’s house. She testified on Tuesday that Duda said he and his uncle had taken drugs and been drinking the night of the collision.
When asked by his lawyer, Paul Gracia, of Calgary, about his comments to her, Duda said, “Not once did I tell her I was drunk.”
In cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Maurice Collard hammered away at inconsistencies in Duda’s versions of events and his selective memory.
Collard asked why Duda was fuzzy on whether or not he had a beer on the way to Rocky but could remember specific times when he was at the bar or at his girlfriend’s house. Collard suggested Duda had no recollection of his conversation with his ex-girlfriend considering his serious injuries that left him drifting in and out of consciousness.
“Incorrect,” countered Duda.
The trial before Justice Kirk Sisson continues today.