Quebec woman who stopped on highway for ducks, causing fatal crash, loses appeal

Quebec woman who stopped on highway for ducks, causing fatal crash, loses appeal

MONTREAL — Quebec’s highest court has upheld the verdict and sentence in the case of a woman who stopped to help ducks along a highway causing a crash that claimed two lives.

The Quebec Court of Appeal on Thursday rejected Emma Czornobaj’s challenge in a 35-page written decision that came nearly seven years after the events.

Shortly after Czornobaj, now 28, stopped her car in June 2010 to rescue ducklings on the side of a provincial highway just south of Montreal, a motorcycle carrying Andre Roy and his teenage daughter, Jessie, slammed into the idling vehicle. Both died as a result of the crash.

Roy’s wife, Pauline Volikakis, was on another motorcycle behind the victims, but was able to stop and avoid serious injury.

Czornobaj, who was 21 at the time, wasn’t in the car, which was stopped in the left lane.

She told her trial she wanted to bring the ducklings home.

“I just wanted to pick all these ducklings up and put them in my car,” Czornobaj testified at the time. “I know it was a mistake.”

Confronted during cross-examination by the Crown, she disagreed her actions were illogical.

“At the time, it’s what I decided to do,” Czornobaj said. “Obviously now I would not have stopped.”

A jury convicted her in June 2014 of two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing death.

She was sentenced in December 2014 to 90 days in jail to be served on weekends, three years’ probation and 240 hours of community service, and given a 10-year driving ban.

Czornobaj appealed in early 2015, and her sentence was put on hold.

The appeals were heard in April by three justices. Her lawyer sought to have her conviction set aside due to what he called inadequate instructions to the jury by the trial judge.

Her lawyer, Jean-Francois Bouveret, appealed the conviction and sought to have the decade-long driving ban reduced, but he failed.

“In short, both the objective and subjective gravity of the offence allowed the imposition of the sentence imposed by the judge, including the prolonged prohibition on driving,” Justice Etienne Parent wrote in a unanimous decision.

“I recall that the period of incarceration inflicted on the appellant, 90 days to be served in a discontinued fashion, is an exceptionally lenient punishment.”

A call to Bouveret was not immediately returned on Thursday.

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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