After almost four years, the family of a young teen killed in a crash in Red Deer on Canada Day 2010 has some semblance of closure.
Rodney Ross Arens, 36, was convicted of all charges on Tuesday in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench. Arens, a building contractor, has lived in Rimbey, Red Deer and Sylvan Lake.
Jeffrey Chanminaraj, 13, was killed and his brother Jamie, now 22, was injured in the July 1 crash involving a truck driven by Arens and car at the intersection of Kerry Wood and Taylor Drives.
Justice Kirk Sisson found Arens guilty of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and breaching release conditions.
Arens sat with a blank stare on his face as Sisson read his decision. Arens was in the prisoner’s box to hear the verdict. Throughout the trial, he was allowed to sit beside defence counsel but on Tuesday, he sat in the prisoner’s box, flanked by Alberta sheriffs.
Jeffrey’s older sister, Stephanie, 24, said she was relieved to see the trial come to a conclusion.
“It’s been so long,” she said. “I’m glad to have closure, I’m glad it’s over for everyone. It’s been a long, drawn-out process, for everyone.
“The memories are fresh, what I remember is fresh. Sometimes you don’t want to remember them.”
Jamie said it was time to move on together as a family.
“We miss our brother, our dad really misses him,” Jamie said.
In the seconds after the crash that killed Jefferey, witnesses testified that Arens said of his truck: “Well I guess I’m not driving that away,” and that he said: “I need a cigarette.”
Arens was arrested by Red Deer RCMP Const. Jean-Francois Tremblay at the scene. Before Tremblay read Arens his charter rights, Tremblay was informed that Jeffrey had died as a result of the crash. Arens was re-arrested for impaired driving causing death.
Sisson thoroughly went through the testimony of numerous witnesses at the scene, acknowledging that there were differences in some people’s testimony with regard to the observations of Arens’ impairment.
He said some civilian witnesses and RCMP members who were still new to the job had different observations, ranging from no signs of alcohol impairment to slurred speech and stumbling.
However, the testimony of seasoned officers, including Cpl. Cindee Scarrott, and video evidence at the RCMP detachment following Arens’ arrest indicated he was impaired.
Sisson pointed specifically to testimony from two officers about Arens’ time in the telephone room. Arens had a difficult time, fumbling through a phone book, dropping it and asking repeatedly for instructions on how to make an outside call. Eventually, an officer dialed for him.
Further testimony from servers at the Vat pub and the Drummond Brewing Co. confirmed that Arens had been consuming alcohol that evening. He had a few beers, at least one of which was a light beer, and had a shot of Jagermeister. Sisson said these factors put together led him to his guilty decision on the impaired driving charges.
Testimony from a friend of Arens indicated that in the days after the crash, he had tried to fabricate evidence. Arens had called and told the witness to say that they had looked at a motorbike and had a beer, and then went to a fast food restaurant, as a way to explain his impairment.
At the scene of the crash, several witnesses testified to seeing the light at the intersection turn yellow for northbound and southbound traffic when they heard a truck accelerate.
Sisson noted it was Canada Day and there was a high volume of traffic and pedestrians in the area heading to Bower Ponds for the fireworks. He said this meant that a reasonable and prudent driver would exercise more caution at the intersection.
However, Arens accelerated, which Sisson cited as reasons for the impaired and dangerous driving convictions.
A traffic reconstruction analyst said Arens was driving at about 79 km/h, well over the 60 km/h posted speed limit northbound on Taylor Drive.
Stephanie Chanminaraj was southbound on Taylor Drive, turning left onto Kerry Wood Drive. Her speed was about 27 km/h when the collision occurred.
Defence witnesses included two RCMP members who testified they arrived on scene and went to the car driven by Stephanie. According to their testimony, Stephanie said “It’s all my fault. I killed him,” immediately after the crash.
Sisson ruled those statements are what can be expected from an older sister when she is in a crash that injures her younger brothers and that they do not reflect guilt or lead the judge to believe she was the cause of the collision.
Sisson said under normal circumstances, Arens’ position as the northbound driver would have put him in the right. However, his acceleration well over the speed limit in an attempt to beat the yellow light puts Arens at fault.
Sentencing for Arens will take place on Thursday in Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench.