Friday July 25, 2014





Speed preceded fatal crash, court told

'I felt for a pulse on his neck and didn't find one'

A pickup owned by Jean-Paul Kowal was speeding and driving erratically on Highway 97A near Enderby on Sept. 1, 2010, before a three-car accident that took the life of a Salmon Arm teenager, a Kamloops judge heard Monday.

Kowal is on trial in B.C. Supreme Court, charged with dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing death and causing an accident resulting in death.

Donovan Pippus, 17, was killed in wake of the accident on a section of Highway 97A, a two-lane undivided highway near Enderby.

Crown witness David Gerlach testified that he was driving southbound toward Kelowna on a moonlit night with very little traffic when he saw headlights in his rearview mirror. Those lights were quickly behind his bumper as the Dodge pickup closed at what he estimated was 130 to 140 km/h.

"The headlights were catching up to me really, really quickly," Gerlach said.

The truck backed off for short while immediately before executing a wild pass just ahead of a sharp turn.

The speed and erratic driving, including swerving into the oncoming lane, caused Gerlach to wonder how long the truck would continue without crashing.

"'This guy's got to be shit-faced,'" Gerlach testified he told his girlfriend that night, adding "'we're probably going to find this guy up ahead in a ditch somewhere.'"

Less that two kilometres up the road Gerlach told Justice Dev Dley the pair came upon "smoke, steam and dust."

A smashed Pontiac Sunbird was in the oncoming lane, while the Dodge pickup was in the middle of the road and another truck off the road beside a power pole.

Gerlach said he grabbed his flashlight and ran out in an attempt to assist. He met another driver who stopped, also a firefighter by training, and together they decided how to help.

"We looked at the white Pontiac and came to the determination there was no help for him."

Gerlach said the driver, later determined to be Donovan Pippus, was dead.

"I felt for a pulse on his neck and didn't find one."

The Good Samaritans went to each vehicle to detach the batteries in order to avoid a fire. The driver of the grey Dodge pickup was conscious, Gerlach said.

"I didn't see any blood on him. He was looking outside. He had a blank look. His eyes were glazed. He mumbled, 'what happened, what's going on?'"

The driver of the other car was not seriously harmed. Within five minutes, police were at the scene, Gerlach said.

The trial is scheduled to last seven days.


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