Former RCMP Inspect. Tim Walton ties police tape at the scene of a multi-vehicle collision at the intersection of Cliffe Avenue and 26th Street July 26, 2016. Black Press File Photo

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

A woman on trial for a multi-vehicle collision that killed a pedestrian two years ago in Courtenay is guilty of three of the nine charges she faced.

Serina Laliberte, 48, was found guilty of having a blood-alcohol content (BAC) over 0.08 mg/100 ml of blood causing an accident resulting in death, and two counts of causing an accident resulting in bodily harm.

Laliberte, wearing a grey sweater while sitting in the prisoner’s box, faced the judge and did not look around the packed courtroom gallery as the hour-and-a-half verdict was read Friday morning.

On July 26, 2016, a Nissan Pathfinder travelling in the northbound lane on Cliffe Avenue struck a pedestrian, proceeded to hit two other vehicles near the intersection and then crashed into parked cars in a nearby parking lot.

RELATED: Trial to conclude Wednesday for Comox Valley driver of vehicle involved in pedestrian death

A male pedestrian in his early 70s was rushed to hospital, along with the drivers of two other vehicles stopped at the intersection of Cliffe Avenue and 26th Street. The male pedestrian later died in hospital.

The trial began in September and was scheduled for five days in Courtenay Supreme Court, but was carried over to Oct. 2 and 3 as both the defence and Crown agreed they needed more time.

Laliberte, who has type 2 diabetes and admitted on the stand she did not regularly take Metformin, her diabetes medication, drank a vodka and pop mixture from a coffee cup (poured from a water bottle at least half-filled with vodka) on the morning of July 26 while waiting for her friends for a day at Comox Lake.

After jumping the curb and hitting the pedestrian on the sidewalk, Laliberte then hit a vehicle stopped at a red light at the intersection of Cliffe Avenue and 26th Street (which subsequently rear-ended another vehicle) before crashing into two parked vehicles in a nearby parking lot.

Prior to Laliberte accelerating rapidly down Cliffe Avenue, two friends in her vehicle testified she became stiff and stared forward, unresponsive.

Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Watchuk said Laliberte’s breath sample at the scene registered as a fail, and two blood alcohol samples taken at the Comox Valley RCMP station read 120 mg/100 ml blood and 100 mg/100 ml blood.

Watchuk added Laliberte told the constable at the scene that she had been drinking and that she is a diabetic.

The judge explained she is satisfied the element of causation is proven for events over Laliberte’s BAC of 0.08, but in terms of three charges involving impaired driving, she did not find the causation link to be proven.

As a result, Laliberte was found not guilty of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

She also faced one charge of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, of which Watchuk found her to be not guilty of all three.

“I do accept the evidence Ms. Laliberte had a blackout or seizure. She was not aware of her actions or not in control. There was no evidence of dangerous driving before the stoplight at the outskirts of the city and she was driving properly,” she noted. “She did not know that it was dangerous to drive because she might have a seizure due to the interaction of alcohol and diabetes.

Following the verdict, Crown prosecutor Richard Ellsay and defence lawyer Eric Chesterley agreed on a pre-sentence report to be ordered prior to sentencing.

A sentencing date will be confirmed on Jan. 28, 2019, and is expected sometime in late February or March.

Outside the courthouse, Leslie Wells, the president of the Comox Valley Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said while the process of the verdict was initially confusing, Crown helped clarify the result for supporters and family members of the victim.

“My understanding is that the sentencing wouldn’t make a difference whether it was more charges or just the three, so that was a big relief to hear.”

She added the verdict sends a clear message: don’t drive when impaired.

“They determined the level of impairment of one (BAC)… and it had some horrific consequences. A guilty verdict is good.”

Family members of the victim were not available for comment following the verdict.

Just Posted

LSS improv program gives students an opportunity to be themselves and entertain others

The Ladysmith Secondary School improv program has planned two weeks of shows for the community

New Sonic the Hedgehog trailer shows off Ladysmith and new character animation

At long last, Sonic the Hedgehog will hit theatres on February 14

Diamond District woman warns against the use of rat poison

At some point between breakfast and lunch Martin had suddenly collapsed and died

Calling all believers: Chemainus Theatre Festival runs Miracle on 34th Street

Opening night is Friday, November 15, and closing is December 29

Remembering Jack Neil, ace fighter pilot and father

Remembrance Day is an opportunity for John Neil to remember his father, Jack

VIDEO: B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

Seguin lifts surging Stars to 4-2 win over Canucks

Dallas is 6-0-1 in last seven outings

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

Batten down the hatches: Wet and windy weekend on the way for coastal B.C.

Environment Canada issues special weather warning for Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

UBC conference draws fire over speaker from Chinese tech company blacklisted in U.S.

The company that has been blacklisted by the U.S. over links to the repression of China’s Muslim minority

Most Read