Trial begins for driver in fatal rollover

A trial for a Red Deer man charged in a single-vehicle rollover that killed his uncle started on Tuesday in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench.

A trial for a Red Deer man charged in a single-vehicle rollover that killed his uncle started on Tuesday in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench.

Matthew Joseph Duda, 24, was charged in 2009 with impaired driving and dangerous driving causing death following the rollover near Sylvan Lake on June 4, 2008, that killed Ross Loblaw, 36, of Delburne.

A charge of failing to remain at the scene of an accident and providing assistance for an injured person was withdrawn by Crown prosecutor Maurice Collard.

Loblaw was found on the road by a motorist after he was ejected from the eastbound pickup truck that rolled in the grassy median of Hwy 11 about two km east of Hwy 20. Police were called at about 3:30 a.m. Loblaw died at the scene.

Police searched the area but did not find anyone else involved in the crash during their initial investigation.

Duda, who was living at People’s Place homeless shelter at the time of the collision, went to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre later in the day to be treated for injuries suffered in a vehicle collision. Hospital staff alerted police.

Police allege that Duda was driving the pickup and fled the scene after the truck rolled and his uncle was the passenger.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Duda initially told police he was the passenger, but later admitted he was the driver. DNA tests showed blood on the driver’s seat belonged to Duda.

RCMP Cpl. Gord Baker, a collision reconstructionist in Central Alberta, testified the vehicle swerved towards the median before swerving a few times back and forth across eastbound lanes before rolling a few times in the median.

He estimated the truck was travelling between 120 and 130 km/h when it began swerving. The speed limit in the area at that time was 100 km/h.

Baker said the driver’s seatbelt was the only one that was worn during the collision and there was blood on the belt, driver’s door, and on the inside roof of the cab above the driver seat.

There was no blood on the passenger side.

The airbags did not deploy, which is typical for this vehicle in a rollover.

Duda’s ex-girlfriend, Nikki Bear, 23, told the court she found Duda in her home in Red Deer the afternoon after the collision.

He had pieces of glass and dried blood on his body and had injured his ribs. He was in shock and disoriented.

Duda told her that he and his uncle used drugs and drank the night of the collision.

Jennifer Law, a waitress at a bar in Rocky Mountain House and Loblaw’s cousin, testified that both Duda and Loblaw were drinking at the bar that night.

She said Duda got into a fight with someone in the washroom and he was asked to leave. Loblaw left about a half hour later.

The dangerous driving causing death charge carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.

The trial before Justice Kirk Sisson is scheduled to conclude Friday.