Michael Bond struck and killed a pedestrian walking along Effingham Street in November 2019
Michael Bond, who was behind the wheel of a vehicle which struck and killed a 66-year-old Ridgeville woman walking along Effingham Street in November 2019, had a three-day trial in Welland which concluded last Thursday. Bond, 53, now awaits the judgment of Justice of the Peace Carol A. Chernish.
Bond was charged under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act with careless driving causing death, driving while under suspension, driving with no valid vehicle license, and operating an unsafe vehicle. He has been homeless since the accident, and has been living in a hostel in Toronto.
Crown attorney Henry Limheng withdrew the latter three charges on the final day of the trial, and focused only on the allegation of careless driving causing death. Limheng called ten witnesses for the prosecution, including police constables and detectives in the forensic investigations unit, an automobile mechanic, passersby, and the lone passenger in Bond’s vehicle the morning of the incident.
Testimony was provided by Bond’s passenger, named Bastien, who was a former work-mate of Bond’s, and had been living with him at Bond’s father’s home in Ridgeville. Bastien said he was enrolled in a drug recovery program, and needed a ride to a clinic at the Hope Centre in Welland the morning of the accident. Despite not having a valid license, Bond made the decision to drive Bastien to the appointment.
The men each had a dog in the blue 2006 Volkswagen Jetta as it travelled south on Effingham Road. The Crown’s contention is that Bond was distracted by his small dog that was in his lap as he was driving, and swerved into the northbound lane while trying to place the dog in the rear seat. Bastien had poor recollection of the incident leading up to the collision. He told the court that he “freaked out” when it was apparent the vehicle had struck the woman, and was “mixed up” when being interviewed by the police after the event. His disjointed testimony was discounted by the Crown.
“I think Mr. Bastien is trying to help out his friend,” said Limheng, who added that Bastien’s testimony was “not consistent with other evidence, and frankly, is not reliable.”
It was suggested by Bastien that Bond may have had the sun in his eyes when he hit the victim, to which Limheng responded in his summary remarks that “I think your worship has heard sufficient evidence from a number of witnesses, such that the sun was unlikely a significant factor.”
Limheng suggested to Justice Chenish that the standard to be applied in the case was that of a “reasonable and prudent driver,” noting that “a reasonable driver is an ordinary person who knows the rules of the road and how to operate a vehicle in an appropriate way…but is also a prudent driver, not a reckless driver.”
The evidence supports that she was complying with her duties as a reasonably prudent pedestrian
One Crown expert witness was a mechanic who assessed the Volkswagen after the collision. The vehicle technician found no particular defects that would have had a meaningful negative affect on the operation of the vehicle, particularly in steering and braking.
Additionally, evidence was provided by one passerby at the scene that Bond had muttered aloud “It’s my fault.”
Limheng told the court that the victim was walking along the shoulder of the northbound lane (there are no sidewalks on the roadway) and was not in the path of travel of vehicle going southbound.
“The evidence supports that she was complying with her duties as a reasonably prudent pedestrian, under Section 179 of the Highway Traffic Act,” he said.
Bond’s legal aid lawyer from Toronto, Paul Genua, told the court that the prosecution had not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and had made inferences based on circumstantial evidence. Genua contended that the Volkswagen, along with vehicle debris, had been moved by the time police arrived at the scene, making an accurate reconstruction of the accident impossible.
“We just don’t know what happened, due to an absence of evidence,” he said.
In a written submission to the court months ago, Bond asserted that the female pedestrian had stumbled into the path of his vehicle, echoing a rambling explanation he gave during an interview with the Voice in November 2020, a year after the collision. However, police and passersby reported that visibility was clear, road conditions were excellent, there was no oncoming traffic, and the accident occurred on a straight section of roadway. Counsel agreed that excessive speed was not a contributing factor in the collision.
Bond did not take the witness stand in his own defense.
Justice Chernish will deliver her decision on December 6.