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Killer drunk driver loses appeal bid

A Campbell River man convicted of impaired driving causing death has lost his appeal.

Christopher Healey, 35, was convicted in October 2010, for the tragic accident which killed Weston Smith of Port Alberni on June 4, 2009.

In a decision handed down Wednesday in Vancouver, the B.C. Court of Appeal upheld the reasons for judgement issued by Campbell River provincial court Judge Brian Saunderson.

“In my view, the judge’s reasons for judgement properly connect the evidence at trial and explain the basis for the verdict,” said Justice Mary Saunders, in a written decision.

Healey’s lawyer, Doug Marion of Campbell River, had argued that Judge Saunderson’s verdict was unreasonable in regard to impaired driving. Healey had suffered a minor head injury in the accident and that might have explained his “slurred speech, mumbling and confusion, glassy eyes and a red, flushed face.”

Marion also contended the judge misconstrued or ignored other relevant  testimony provided by witnesses who arrived at the Island Highway accident scene.

But the appellant court said Judge Saunderson considered all the evidence “taken as a whole” and provided a sound basis for Healey’s conviction.

“…the only rational conclusion was that Mr. Healey was impaired by alcohol when the truck he was driving collided with the truck driven by Mr. Smith,” wrote Justice Saunders.

On that fateful day, Healey had consumed at least a couple of drinks in the morning, likely vodka, before heading north on the Island Highway.

Driving a Toyota pickup on a clear and dry afternoon, Healey was approximately 14 kilometres south of the Sayward Junction when he drifted right onto the gravel shoulder.

Healey tried to correct the drift, turned back onto the paved highway, spun out, crossed the centre line and collided with Smith’s southbound Mazda pickup.

Smith was wearing a seatbelt, but died instantly from head and chest injuries. He was on his way home to Port Alberni after

finishing his shift at the Port Alice mill. No one else saw the accident, but other motorists stopped within minutes of the collision. The first woman on the scene found Healey lying in the southbound lane, near his pickup.

He was momentarily unconscious and had a lump on the right side of his head. The witness told police she could smell alcohol on Healey and he was slurring his words.

Within 20 minutes of the accident, Const. Christopher Dove of the Sayward RCMP arrived at the scene and also noted Healey’s slurred speech, flushed face, glassy eyes and a strong odour of fresh alcohol. In the cab of Healey’s truck, the officer found two empty bottles of vodka and a partly consumed bottle which had Healey’s fingerprints on it.

Const. Dove rode in the ambulance with Healey who was taken to Campbell River Hospital. During the 45-minute trip, the officer informed Healey he was under investigation for impaired driving causing death. But Healey gave the officer vague responses and refused to provide a breath or blood sample. Nevertheless, Judge Saunderson was convinced that Healey was the driver and that he was under the influence of alcohol.

Healey was handed a four-year jail sentence and banned from driving for 15 years.

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