A man guilty of careless driving in a crash in Nanaimo that killed a retired Abbotsford police officer was fined, but won’t have his driver’s licence suspended.
In provincial court in Nanaimo on Wednesday, June 23, Judge Karen Whonnock ruled that Conrad Nikolaus Wetten, 25, had driven without due care and attention in December 2018 leading up to a crash that resulted in the death of former Abbotsford police spokesperson Shinder Kirk. The Ford pickup Wetten was driving hit Kirk’s Chevy in a head-on collision on Cedar Road.
In a sentencing decision Friday, June 25, Wetten was ordered to pay a $1,500 fine, but was not handed any driving prohibition. Whonnock said the offence fell under the Motor Vehicle Act and did not involve reckless driving and carries less moral blame-worthiness as opposed to a criminal code offence.
His actions were “a momentary glimpse in the river of time,” but one that changed things forever, said Whonnock.
“I remind myself that I’m only sentencing him for … driving without due care and attention and not sentencing him for causing Mr. Kirk’s death,” said Whonnock.
No matter what the sentence is under the motor vehicle act, it can’t bring back the deceased and imposing a fine should not be viewed as putting a value on life, she said.
Wetten had received two speeding violations since the accident, the judge noted.
David Brooks, Wetten’s legal counsel, argued that a driving prohibition would cost his client his job at a contracting company. A reference letter from his employer stated Wetten is responsible and someone who has demonstrated due care and attention while operating a wide variety of heavy equipment.
In not imposing a driving prohibition, Whonnock noted that although Wetten received two speeding violations in the spring of 2019, he had not received any tickets since starting his job in July 2019. The fact that Wetten is gainfully employed and in a position of trust and leadership at work are mitigating factors, she said.
“Imposing a driving prohibition would have a very punitive impact on Mr. Wetten and that is not the intention of the Motor Vehicle Act,” the judge said.
She previously ruled there was no evidence of pre-existing slicks on the road, and the evidence supported the conclusion that Wetten’s vehicle caused the collision. She also said Wetten didn’t take reasonable steps to avoid the collision, with no evidence he tried to swerve away from the oncoming vehicle or brake.
According to an agreed statement of facts from Ken Paziuk, Crown counsel, and Brooks presented at the beginning of the trial, the road was wet from recent rain and the temperature was between 6-8 C. Mechanical conditions of both vehicles were not contributing factors in the accident, nor was visibility and both Kirk and Wetten’s abilities were not impaired by alcohol or narcotics.
The Ford was travelling southbound down Cedar Road, while the Chevy was northbound. As the Ford approached the scene of the collision, entering a right-hand corner in the roadway, it crossed the double line and collided with the Chevy.
In a pair of victim impact statements, Kirk’s wife Wendy said she suffered severe injuries in the accident and is in constant pain daily. Her world has been shattered, she said, and there has not been one day in which she hasn’t thought about the crash. Kirk’s daughter Stephanie expressed similar sentiments, stating she won’t be able to celebrate another Christmas or birthday with her father or have him accompany her down the aisle at her wedding.
Commenting after the hearing, Paziuk reiterated that the ruling pertained to the Motor Vehicle Act.
“It’s a regulatory offence and so it is different than a criminal code offence and so the intent is not necessarily, as [the judge] said, to punish the accused in these particular cases…” Paziuk said. “Really, the extent of [Wetten’s] driving with undue care was a momentary lapse.”
Neither Wetten nor Brooks wished to comment.
The trial took place May 7, 13 and June 1.