Family grapples with loss of young man

He saved up for the Pontiac Sunfire he last drove on Sept. 1, 2010, when he was hit and killed

Cam Fortems / Kamloops Daily News
January 26, 2013 01:00 AM

Donovan Pippus had plans to settle down with his girlfriend Christine

Don, Donovan or Donny-Bum - whatever you called the kid - he knew what he wanted.

Starting with a paper route when he was 11, Donovan Pippus worked from an early age. Later he became the stabilizing force in his family when his parents, Dave and Diane, separated.

He was the worker, the "family banker" who saved up to buy the things he wanted, for gifts to family and friends and for the future he was going to share with girlfriend, Christine.

Dave, who struggled with serious drug problems in his life, credited his youngest son for staying away from the problems that haunted him.

"I made the mistakes, so he didn't have to."

When he got into his later teens, Donovan's paper route eventually gave way to a part-time job after school, on weekends and during summer working at Schapol Logging, a 45-minute bike ride from home, where he started as the "clean-up kid."

He saved up for the Pontiac Sunfire he last drove on Sept. 1, 2010, when he was hit and killed by Jean-Paul Kowal's Dodge 4x4 driving the other way on Highway 97A near Enderby.

"He was a real worker," said Dave, one of 10 family members who travelled from Salmon Arm each day this week to watch the trial.

Kowal is charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and causing an accident resulting in death.

Dave wears a lanyard with photos of Donovan on each side. On one is a portrait of him in a Roman-style helmet that the teenager - also as talented metalworker - fashioned himself. The other is another portrait, "Donovan in the clouds," Dave smiled.

His mother, Diane, intends to wear a t-shirt with Donovan's photo screened on it into B.C. Supreme Court on Monday, when Kowal is scheduled to testify in his own defence.

"I want him to see who he killed," she said quietly.

When he died, Donovan was about to enter his final year of high school. He was already planning to work in the trades, particularly as a millwright or welder, where his talents were obvious in the things he made with his hands. He was planning a life together with Christine.

"He had huge plans and dreams," his mother said.

* * *

Defence suggests driver may have guzzled after crash

With a blood-alcohol level three to four times more than the legal limit, the average motorist would be unable to even start a car.

An RCMP expert testified in B.C. Supreme Court Friday that a blood sample taken from Jean-Paul Kowal at hospital after his head-on crash on Highway 97A tested at .3 to .35, adjusted for the two-hour delay in obtaining it.

"The vast majority of people would be all over the road," testified forensic alcohol specialist Jacqueline Montpetite.

"They'd not only be all over the road, they'd most likely not be able to drive at all - even to set the car in motion."

Despite those blood alcohol levels, in the minutes and hours after Kowal's Dodge 4x4 crossed the road in the other lane and ran head-on into Donovan Pippus's car -killing the 17-year-old - the pickup driver displayed few or no signs of impairment, some witnesses said.

One witness who arrived at the scene immediately after the accident on Sept. 1, 2010, testified Kowal's speech was slurred. But RCMP members and paramedics did not report any obvious signs of impairment.

The RCMP specialist said at those blood-alcohol levels, an inexperienced drinker would be at risk from respiratory failure and death.

But Montpetite did not rule out the possibility Kowal could show no signs of impairment at those levels if he were a hardened drinker whose tolerance level was extremely high.

Kowal is expected to testify Monday. His lawyer, Rishi Gill, suggested Friday that his client may have guzzled from a bottle of peach schnapps and another bottle of vodka in his truck in the immediately aftermath of the crash.

RCMP did not take a breath sample from Kowal. He told police he was unable, due to his injuries, but did agree to have a blood sample taken.

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