BY KEITH LACEY
The wife and daughters of a respected teacher wiped away tears Monday as details were revealed in court about a fatal accident involving a few seconds of poor driving.
David Tweedle, 54, was killed July 2, 2003 when his mid-size vehicle was clipped by a loaded tractor-trailer just past the Coniston turnoff on Hwy. 17 heading towards North Bay.
The nudge caused Tweedle?s car to spin out of control into oncoming traffic, and he was broadsided by another vehicle travelling westbound.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, Sylvie Chabot, 37, pleaded guilty Monday to careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act. Chabot lives and works
in St. Pierre, Que.
Court heard Chabot pulled over after the accident, but initially denied being involved or causing the collision. It took a collision reconstruction expert to determine her tractor-trailer was involved, said assistant Crown attorney Karen Lische.
Charges of dangerous driving causing death were withdrawn.
Court heard two lengthy pre-trials were held before the matter proceeded to court for a guilty plea Monday.
Because Chabot was no longer facing criminal charges, she did not have to make an appearance in court Monday. Instead, defence lawyer Denis
Michel entered the plea of guilty on Chabot?s behalf.
Court heard Chabot has no previous criminal record and no convictions under the Highway Traffic Act.
?This case underscores how crucial it is to pay close attention at all times (when driving),? said Justice Randall Lalande. ?Had that been done in this incident, we would not be here today.?
After hearing all the evidence, Lalande said he would accept the joint submission that Chabot be given the maximum $1,000 fine under the Highway Traffic Act. He also suspended Chabot?s driver?s license for 90 days.
Court heard Tweedle was obeying all rules of the road travelling along Hwy. 17. Just past the Coniston turnoff, there?s a turning lane to enter the old Garson-Falconbridge highway, and the highway flattens out with no passing lanes, said Lische.
With Tweedle in his proper lane, Chabot?s tractor-trailer somehow pulled up behind his vehicle and nicked the back left rear end of his vehicle with the front right bumper of the huge trailer.
When police arrived on the scene, Tweedle was pronounced dead. A male in the car which struck Tweedle?s vehicle suffered minor injuries, but his wife suffered serious injuries, including a swollen ankle and knee and bruised sternum and heart.
The roads were dry and it was a nice sunny morning the day the accident took place, said Lische.
Chabot originally told police she witnessed the accident, but a police investigation revealed differently, said Lische.
?It became apparent the tractor-trailer had made contact with the Tweedle car, causing the collision,? she said.
In a police video statement, Chabot said she ?didn?t know what happened and suddenly saw a grey car in front of me? and she didn?t have time to avoid a minor collision with Tweedle?s car.
The Crown isn?t alleging any intent on Chabot?s behalf, ?but she should have noticed there was no right hand lane? and been able to see Tweedle?s vehicle riding high in a tractor-trailer and there?s ample evidence to support a charge of careless driving, said Lische.
Michel said he couldn?t argue there was a lack of care and attention by Chabot, who is deeply remorseful for her involvement in such a tragedy.