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Witnesses recount efforts to help pedestrians at fatal crash scene, describe screaming driver

Aug. 27, 2018 collision on Central Saanich Road; driver is on trial
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Map: Central Saanich site were driver struck two pedestrians, killing one of them, on Aug. 27, 2018. TIMES COLONIST

A Central Saanich man described how he sprinted from a moving car to help a driver involved in what he thought was a terrible single-car accident in August 2018.

“I assumed from the speed that someone was hurt and I thought I had to help them,” Christopher Pennington testified Wednesday at Anthony Thomas’s trial in B.C. Supreme Court.

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

Kim Ward, 51, was a Victoria ­massage therapist who had 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 manufactured-home park on Central Saanich Road.

Pennington testified that he was in the back seat of his father’s Acura on the night of Aug. 27, 2018, when he heard his father John say: “What’s this guy doing?”

He looked up and saw a red Jeep cross over the line in the centre of the road and continue to veer over to the left, off the road.

“At no point did it stop,” said ­Pennington. “I didn’t see any brake lights. It just kept going into the ­pedestrians, which I now know, then the bollards.”

Pennington yelled at his father to pull over and sprinted from the car.

“The driver was getting out of the vehicle which surprised me because in my head I thought someone was hurt and needed help,” he testified. “I asked: ‘Are you OK? Are you OK?’ He didn’t respond to me. He just had these big blank eyes, not focused, just stared right through me. I asked him again: ‘Are you OK?’ He didn’t respond to me.”

The driver was standing, spinning a bit, moving around in a circle, he recalled.

“Did he say anything?” asked prosecutor Tim Stokes.

“Nothing at all, which was strange to me because I asked him directly several times,” ­Pennington replied.

At that point, he saw a woman on the ground and ran over to her. She wasn’t breathing, he said. He checked for a pulse, but couldn’t feel one.

“I ran to the other person in the road. And she was in very rough shape. She was breathing. She was alive, but it didn’t look like it at the time,” Pennington testified.

“I started talking to her. ‘Hi, my name is Chris. I’m here to help you. You’ve been in an accident. Stay strong with me. Help is on the way. Hang in there.’ ”

An off-duty paramedic helped Pennington turn Tracy Ward over to clear her airway. The first fire truck arrived and Pennington ran to tell the first firefighter off the truck that they needed suction. Then he stood back and let the first responders do their work.

Pennington testified that his wife, Bryanne, also got out of the car to check on the woman behind the Jeep. He said he saw the driver walk toward his wife and stand “uncomfortably close” to her.

“He was just hunched over with very wide eyes, turning his head, just staring at the lady. Eyes wide open, blank stare, eyes moving side to side, staring at the victim on the ground.”

Pennington testified that he heard the driver yelling “Ah, ah, ah” for about 30 seconds.

Bryanne Pennington also took the stand, testifying that she got out of the car and started running to help the woman behind the Jeep.

“I remember looking up and there was a man kind of crouched over top of me. … He started screaming and holding his stomach and just seemed completely out of it,” she testified. “He was screaming ‘Ow’ and then ‘Ah.’ ”She asked the man if he was OK. She also asked if he could calm down, but he didn’t acknowledge her. He was moving his head erratically, she recalled.

“I actually sat back on my rear so I wasn’t hunched over the body any more and he continued to scream.”

A woman came up and asked him what had happened. He replied that he didn’t know and that he was sorry. She moved him away. Someone brought a blanket for him and he sat down. At first he lay down, then he sat up and started rocking in another man’s arms and sobbing, she testified.

ldickson@timescolonist.com