A Nanaimo woman charged with dangerous and impaired driving following a 2008 car crash was urged to stay in Victoria rather than drive to Nanaimo in snowy road conditions hours before the crash.
Clare Bekkers is charged with two counts of impaired driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, two counts of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The trial began Tuesday in B.C. Supreme Court in Nanaimo.
The crash happened around 4:20 p.m. on Dec. 22, 2008 in the southbound lane of the Island Highway near the Cassidy Inn.
Bekkers, 35 at the time of the crash, driving northbound on the highway, lost control of her vehicle and swerved into oncoming traffic, triggering a multi-car collision that killed her two sons and injured her two daughters.
Bekkers’s former friend Carolyn Daniels was the first witness to take the stand Tuesday.
Daniels, who has not spoken with Bekkers since shortly after the accident, said the two women got together in Victoria the day before the crash and drank alcohol into the evening.
Bekkers and one of her daughters spent the night. Her other children were with family and friends, also in the Victoria area.
The next morning, Daniels suggested to Bekkers that she stay in Victoria rather than driving back to Nanaimo because it had snowed during the night. She said the snow was knee deep when the pair were digging her car out.
Daniels also told the court that she saw Bekkers using cocaine earlier that year and when Daniels asked if Bekkers had brought any that day, Bekkers told her that she had finished it the day before at her parents’ place in Victoria.
Nanaimo RCMP Const. Darren Maizis testified that the road conditions were good enough that he felt he was able to speed to the scene.
Once there, he smelled what he believed to be beer around Bekkers’s vehicle and determined that the beer smell was coming from the rear of the vehicle. Daniels told the courtroom earlier that day that she had packed the leftover beers from the previous night in the trunk.
On Wednesday, two more police officers who attended the accident scene testified, one of whom was a collision analyst, and eyewitness testimonies were expected to begin Wednesday afternoon or Thursday morning.
The Crown is calling about 18 witnesses to the stand, including those who observed her driving prior to the accident, police officers who attended the scene and a forensic toxicologist.
Crown counsel Frank Dubenski said a blood sample taken from Bekkers at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital after the crash showed a blood-alcohol content of 42 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
The trial is scheduled to finish Sept. 14, but defense lawyer Bert King indicated that after the Crown wrapped up its case on Thursday or Friday, there may be a short adjournment because he is awaiting a report from an expert witness.