Toxicologist testifies in trial of Nanaimo woman

Toxicologist testifies in trial of Nanaimo woman Tuesday

Alcohol, evidence of cocaine use and anti-depressants were found in a blood sample taken from a Nanaimo woman after she was involved in a tragic car crash.

Clare Bekkers faces eight charges relating to a car crash on the Island Highway near the Cassidy Inn Dec. 22, 2008 that killed her two sons and injured her two daughters.

Her trial in Supreme Court in Nanaimo resumed Monday after a two-month adjournment.

Ronald Pon, an RCMP forensic toxicologist, told the courtroom Tuesday he found 42 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – under the legal driving limit of 80 – in a blood sample taken at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital about an hour and 40 minutes after the accident.

He also found three compounds produced when the body is breaking down cocaine, which indicates Bekkers took cocaine at some point, although Pon couldn’t say exactly when.

Pon said the blood sample also included a higher amount of an anti-depressant drug than the normal therapeutic range, adding one of the known side-effects of overdosing is drowsiness.

Each of the substances found in the blood sample could potentially affect a person’s ability to drive, he said, although he couldn’t conclusively say if Bekkers was impaired.

A person in the “crash” phase of cocaine use can be tired, depressed and irritable, Pon testifed, and a person’s vision, depth perception, attention to surroundings and reaction time are potentially affected by blood alcohol concentrations under the legal driving limit.

The Crown asked Pon to give his opinion on what Bekkers’s blood alcohol content was at the time of the accident and earlier in the day. His analysis determined it was between 59 and 76 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood at 4:20 p.m. – the time of the crash – and above the legal limit at 1:30 p.m., around which time a previous witness placed Bekkers in the Victoria area.

On Monday, five people involved in the collision described the fatal crash.

Glen Budd, who was a passenger in his brother’s truck when they were involved in the multi-car crash, told the courtroom he and his brother were the first people to approach the SUV with its rear buried in a snowbank.

When Budd looked in the back of the vehicle, the first child he saw looked to be either very badly injured or dead, so he concentrated on checking the vital signs of the child in the middle seat, who appeared to be having trouble breathing.

The child behind the driver was screaming but appeared to Budd to be uninjured. He ran off to try to find more help when a man who claimed he was an army medic arrived.

Ken Wilson, heading southbound to Ladysmith, said he saw the headlights on a vehicle heading northbound towards him “bucking” up and down.

He watched the car fishtail to one side and then the other, but expected it to stay in the northbound lanes. Wilson decided to change from the left lane to the right to warn the drivers behind him there was a hazard on the road.

While changing lanes, he said the swerving car suddenly came across the northbound lanes and struck his vehicle.

The Crown’s case was expected to wrap up Wednesday. The defence has requested a short adjournment.