The woman who parked her car on a Montreal-area highway to ensure that a group of ducklings could safely cross the street in 2010 has been found guilty of causing the deaths of a motorcyclist and his passenger daughter. Emma Czornobaj could face life in prison given the charges brought against her in the case.
Andre Roy, 50, was driving his Harley-Davidson motorcycle and had his 16-year-old daughter Jessie as a passenger. Roy was driving an estimated 70 miles per hour in a 60 miles per hour zone. He either did not see or was not able to stop in time and smashed into Czornobaj's parked vehicle. His wife, who was following behind Roy in her car, got out and stayed with her husband, who died at the scene. Jessie was pinned beneath Czornobaj's car; she was rescued but later died at the hospital.
"My feelings are that it is time that we go on," Pauline Volikakis, Roy's wife and Jessie's mother, told the court. "This will not bring back my loved ones. I don't wish misfortune on anyone."
Czornobaj was found guilty on two counts of criminal negligence causing a death, a charge that carries the maximum penalty of life in jail, and two counts of dangerous driving causing death, which comes with a maximum of 14 years in jail. The 12-member jury stated that they had unanimously come to the verdict.
"The fact that she was involved in the accident in the first place was a hard experience for her," defense lawyer Marc Labelle told Newser. "The fact that she had to go through a trial with a lot of publicity was tough and to be confirmed by 12 citizens, the jury, that the conduct was criminal is a hard blow."
Prosecutor Annie-Claude Chasse wanted to set an example for other motorists to obey the laws of the road and not put anyone else in danger.
"Would a reasonable and prudent person, in the same circumstances as was the accused, have done the same?" Chasse asked the jury. "Would that reasonable and prudent person have stopped their car on a busy highway in order to save some ducks?"
"What we hope is that a clear message is sent to society that we do not stop on the highway for animals. It's not worth it," Chasse said after the verdict was read.
Czornobaj was released until her pre-sentence hearing on August 8. A petition has been started to send to the judge in the case in order to prevent Czornobaj from going to jail and showing support for the animal lover. The petition says that Volikakis has forgiven Czornobaj and asks that no jail time should be served for the tragic accident and that Roy was driving over the speed limit and contributed to the accident. So far one petition has received over 5,000 signatures.