Feb 12, 2011 - DRUNK DRIVER NOT AT FAULT IN DEATH OF CONESTOGO GIRL, 11 [Grace Wynen]


A drunk driver involved in a fatal crash walked away with only a fine Friday after the evidence showed he wasn’t at fault.

Grace Wynen, 11, died in hospital about a week after her mother’s compact car was hit broadside by a pickup truck Oct. 21 on Maryhill Road in Woolwich Township.

The driver of the pickup, Robert Synnott, had well over the legal limit of alcohol in his system when the crash took place at Crowsfoot Road about 9 p.m.

But after a detailed investigation, including a collision reconstruction, police and Crown prosecutors concluded the 25-year-old Maryhill man wasn’t to blame.

As a result, a charge of impaired driving causing death wasn’t pursued.

Synnott, who had no record, pleaded guilty in Kitchener court to a single count of driving with a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit.

He was fined $1,250 — $250 more than the minimum — and given the standard one-year driving prohibition for a first offence.

Julie Wynen, 42, was severely injured in the crash. She recently began using a walker after months in a wheelchair and can’t remember what happened.

Crown prosecutor Andre Rajna said the key witness was therefore another motorist who estimated Synnott was just 200 feet (60 metres) away when Wynen pulled in front of him in her Toyota Prius.

Calculations by police determined Synnott would have had only two to three seconds before slamming into the passenger side of the car.

“When you look at average reaction times, even doing the speed limit, that accident was inevitable,” Rajna said.

Empty beer cans were found in the back of the pickup, but defence lawyer Hal Mattson said they had been there for some time and Synnott wasn’t actually drinking while driving.

John Wynen, husband of Julie and father of Grace, attended the court hearing, but left quickly afterwards without commenting.

Sandra Henderson, who is supporting the Conestogo family on behalf of the local chapter of MADD, said he was understandably angry at the outcome.

Rajna said there was a similar reaction when police and Crown prosecutors met with relatives about a month ago to share the results of the investigation.

“Having to tell them that was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do professionally,” he said.

A tall, slim man in a shirt and tie who was supported by his mother, Synnott had nothing to say in court. He also declined comment outside afterwards.

“My client is distraught by the whole situation,” Mattson said.

Justice Michael Epstein said Synnott would have faced a penitentiary term had there been evidence his impairment caused the crash.

Given that the investigation showed he wasn’t to blame, however, he said the fine and the standard driving ban were fitting.

“I must not be derailed from my proper function by the tragic results,” Epstein said.

Source: The Record


Last updated on: 2015-10-22 | Link to this post