He drove without a licence in a jacked-up 4x4, his girlfriend beside him without a seatbelt and her two children buckled up together on the passenger's side.
Cody Kuch fishtailed out of control on an icy Lac Du Bois Road late at night, landing in a deep ditch. The impact crushed the passenger side, ejecting Joanne Plante in a crash so severe it knocked out the pickup's driveshaft.
Plante was pinned under the truck and died in the accident, late April 7, 2010
A B.C. Supreme Court judge found Kuch was behind the wheel that night, but he is not guilty of dangerous driving causing death.
The verdict marked the end of a trial that started in late October.
The trial originally heard a taxicab was dispatched to pick up a man and two children, 11 and 4, wandering down Lac Du Bois Road in the early morning hours of Apr. 8.
The cab driver drove them back to the scene of the accident, about 10 kilometres away. He found the 32-year-old woman dead beneath the truck and called RCMP.
Justice Terence Schultes said the two issues were whether Kuch was driving and whether his driving was dangerous.
Kuch reportedly told RCMP that Plante was behind the wheel when the truck crashed. But Schultes called that statement "self-serving." He instead relied on evidence from the cab driver who testified that Kuch told him, "I rolled my truck."
An accident reconstructionist also found the driver's side seatbelt showed stress from restraining a large mass, while the passenger's side belt had less stress marks. There was also an impact on the dashboard consistent with Plante hitting it from her position beside the driver.
She was not belted with a centre lap belt in the regular cab 1986 GMC truck. Kuch also had an abrasion on his shoulder consistent with being restrained by the driver's side belt in an accident.
Crown counsel Iain Currie argued Kuch was driving in a dangerous manner because the truck was illegally modified and wouldn't pass mechanical inspection, he had no driver's licence and snow and ice were on the washboard-strewn road.
But Schultes noted the RCMP accident reconstructionist could point to no scientific reason why the truck lost control, including the mechanical condition of the truck, which he called "a non-issue."
The RCMP expert could also not estimate the speed at which the pick-up lost control, slewing one way and then spinning the other as Kuch tried to correct the slide.
Schultes said in order for driving to be determined as criminally dangerous it must be a "marked departure" from regular driving and objectively dangerous to the public. The fact that Plante died is not evidence alone of dangerous driving.
The B.C. Supreme Court justice said there was no real evidence that Kuch's lack of a driver's licence, mechanical failures of the truck, road conditions or his driving "played a role in the accident.
"We simply don't know if any or all played a role."
© Kamloops Daily News