The father of a teenager hit and killed by a Kelowna man on Highway 97A yelled obscenities and threatened Jean-Paul Kowal on Friday following a decision in B.C. Supreme Court.
Justice Dev Dley found Kowal guilty of dangerous driving causing death but acquitted him on a charge of impaired driving in the death of Donovan Pippus.
“He f---ing murdered my son,” David Pippus screamed as he was led out of the courtroom by sheriffs.
Kowal, who commutes from the Okanagan to work as a heavy equipment operator in Alberta, was alone in the courtroom and escorted by sheriffs. About 10 friends and extended family members of Donovan were in the courtroom for the decision.
Kowal took the stand in the February and testified he fell asleep immediately before his pickup went into the other lane, smashing into Donovan’s Pontiac Sunfire and killing him instantly on Sept 1, 2010, near Enderby.
He claimed he guzzled from bottles of schnapps and vodka immediately after the crash.
While Dley said that claim has little air of reality, he found a reasonable doubt whether Kowal was impaired at the time.
Kowal's blood-alcohol level at the time of the accident was more than three times the legal limit, yet RCMP and emergency officials detected no signs of impairment.
Kowal will be sentenced later this spring on the conviction for dangerous driving causing death.
Alexander Watt, a Kamloops defence lawyer who is not connected with the case, speculated the Crown will seek a sentence ranging from an 18-month conditional sentence order served in the community up to three years in jail.
The most important factor will be Kowal’s driving and criminal records, including if he has past convictions for impaired driving.
“That would show a bigger degree of negligence,” said Watt, who is not familiar with the details of the trial.
Prosecutor Angela Ross declined to comment on the sentence she will seek.
An avid outdoorsman, Donovan was in the final year of high school and intended to go to trade school on graduation. He was already saving to purchase a house through his summer job.
Dley said Kowal’s driving in the moments before the crash showed a marked departure from the standard expected of motorists. The B.C. Supreme Court justice did not accept Kowal’s claim that he fell asleep before crossing the road on the corner and hitting Donovan head-on.
Witnesses said Kowal also passed dangerously in the minutes before the crash.
“A reasonable person would have appreciated, although traffic was light, there were other vehicles on the highway,” Dley said. “A reasonable person would have stayed in his or her own lane.”