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Officers did not detect impairment of driver in fatal Central Saanich crash, court hears

Police officers told the court they observed nothing to indicate the driver involved in a fatal crash in 2018 may have been intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.
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Map: Central Saanich site were driver struck two pedestrians, killing one of them, on Aug. 27, 2018. TIMES COLONIST

The first police officers who arrived at the scene of a fatal crash on Central Saanich Road three years ago have testified that they observed nothing to indicate the driver may have been intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

Anthony Thomas has pleaded not guilty to impaired driving and dangerous driving causing the death of Kim Ward on on Aug. 27, 2018, and impaired driving and dangerous driving causing bodily harm to her sister, Tracy Ward.

Kim Ward, 51, was a Victoria ­massage therapist who worked with some of Canada’s top athletes at two Olympic Games. At the time of her death, the sisters were visiting their mother, who lived in a residential park on Central Saanich Road.

On Friday, Central Saanich police Sgt. Paul Brailey told the B.C. Supreme Court that he arrived at the scene of the fatal crash moments after Const. Jessica Craig. He saw a dead dog on the side of the road, then a red Jeep that had gone off the road and come to a stop against two bollards that were protecting a utility box. Brailey testified that he saw Tracy Ward being cared for by two people in the middle of the road. Kim Ward was lying lifeless, directly behind the Jeep.

Thomas was sitting on the grass, four or five metres behind the car. Another man was standing within another two or three metres, Brailey testified.

“Both men were extremely emotional,” he said.

Thomas was crying and in shock, rocking back and forth, said Brailey, who walked up to him.

“So I asked if he was OK and if everything was OK and during that conversation, he said, ‘No, I’m the driver,’ ” Brailey recalled.

Thomas was taken by ambulance to Victoria General Hospital around 7:22 p.m, the officer testified.

Brailey remained at the scene. About 20 minutes later, a civilian handed him a baggie containing two Xanax pills. He seized the pills and later brought them back to the detachment for processing.

Around 1 a.m., Brailey seized a red bag that had been found under the driver’s seat by Saanich forensic identification officer Brad Walsh. Among other items, the bag contained baggies, rolling papers, a rolling device, a grinder and a digital electronic scale.

Defence lawyer Peter Blokmanis asked Brailey if he observed anything to indicate Thomas was intoxicated by drugs.

“No, as I mentioned,” Brailey replied, “Mr. Thomas was extremely emotional. I didn’t have a suspicion or form an opinion that he was impaired.”

Craig testified that she was the first officer to arrive, parking her police car across the road to protect the scene and calling for an ambulance code 3 — “which means immediately.”

After helping an off-duty paramedic move Tracy Ward onto her back, Craig turned her attention to Thomas, who was lying behind the Jeep with his upper body supported by another man.

Thomas identified himself as the driver, said Craig, who asked him for his name, birthdate and address. He was complaining of pain in his left elbow, but otherwise did not appear to be injured, she testified.

Craig followed the ambulance treating Thomas to the hospital and sat with him in a holding area before he was seen in the trauma room.

Craig told prosecutor Tim Stokes that she saw Thomas bump into the right wall of the hospital corridor twice. The second time, he bumped into a partition, then took a couple of steps, walking along the wall for support.

A video of the second bump was captured by hospital cameras and played in court.

During cross-examination, Craig told Blokmanis that while she waited in the holding area, she leaned over Thomas to better overhear a conversation he was having with a paramedic.

“He was discussing his depression and how his father was in hospital,” said Craig, who testified that she was in close proximity to Thomas almost all of the time he was waiting to be seen.

“And during that conversation with the paramedic, you observed nothing to indicate he had consumed alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs?” Blokmanis asked.

“Not at the time,” Craig replied.

At some point, Craig learned that Brailey had seized a baggie containing two Xanax. She received information that the pills had been passed by Thomas to someone else.

Blokmanis suggested that Thomas was clearly walking with a limp in the video.

Craig said she didn’t make note of it at the time, but agreed that Thomas did not appear to be walking evenly.

“Prior to leaving waiting room 3, you didn’t think you had the grounds to charge Mr. Thomas with any criminal offence?” Blokmanis asked.

“That’s true,” Craig replied.

She also agreed that prior to leaving the waiting room, she did not believe she had the grounds to demand a field sobriety test.

Michaela Pelton was also on the stand Friday, testifying that she was in a fender bender with the drive of a red Jeep before the fatal crash.

Pelton told the court she was stopped at a four-way stop around dinner time on Aug. 27, 2018, when her black Honda Accord suddenly lurched forward and she realized she’d been hit. She got out of the car, as did the other driver.

There was very little damage to the vehicles, so they traded information and shook hands, Pelton said.

The other driver was wearing a green tank top with a design on front and tan shorts, she recalled.

“We had a bit of brief conversation and he apologized several times,” Peloton testified.

But the other driver was more nervous than she would have expected, she said.

“It was the repeated apology, mostly. It was just profuse apologies,” she testified.

ldickson@timescolonist.com