Youth driver takes stand in Bianca Leduc trial
A21-year-old man took the stand in his defence Tuesday in a Salaberry-deValleyfield youth courtroom, where his trial had resumed after a four month delay. The Pincourt man, who cannot be named because he was a minor at the time of the accident, was composed when standing before Youth Court Judge Mario Gervais wearing a button down shirt and slacks. He told the court about the accident that claimed the little girl's life. He and his long-time friend, Brandon Pardi, were supposed to celebrate Pardi's 18th birthday that day. The plan was for the accused, who had gotten his driver's license just five days earlier, to have picked Pardi up at his Notre-Dame-de-l'Île-Perrot home. But when he arrived he found Pardi sitting in his brother's grey Volkswagon Golf. The man said he was "aware" that Pardi did not have his full driver's license, but felt it was not his place to question his older friend. Then, driving his father's Pontiac Sunfire, he set off with Pardi following behind in the Golf. And though he noticed while looking in his rear-view mirror that Pardi did not seem to be in control of the manual transmission car, he kept going. It was while approaching a stop sign on Des Érables Blvd. at the corner of Giffard St. that he began to panic. "(Pardi) came faster and faster behind me... I thought he was going to smash the back of my car so I tried to get out of the way, by turning left", he told the court. At the last second, he added, Pardi switched into the left lane on Des Érables just as the Sunfire began its turn and the two cars hit. The defendant said he was knocked unconscious and awoke on the front lawn of a home smelling burnt rubber and gasoline. "I heard the voice of the babysitter screaming, 'Où est la petite, où est la petite?'" he said. Jacqueline Thompson, who lives on Des Érables and witnessed the accident, testified that she saw the grey car driving "faster than it should," and "driving on the other side of the street." She said the Sunfire had stopped at the stop sign, something Sûreté du Québec collision reconstruction expert Serge Béliveau had denied in previous testimony. Béliveau also concluded the Sunfire had been traveling 65 km/hr at the time of the accident, while Pardi was driving 80 km/hr or more. But defence witness Olivier BellavignaLadoux, a mechanical engineering expert specializing in road safety and collision analysis, concluded the Sunfire was going no faster than 25 km/hr. Bellavigna-Ladoux additionally said the cars did not sideswipe each other, as testified to by Béliveau, but that Pardi's car collided with the Sunfire as it was turning left. Both then careened onto the lawn where Bianca was hanging Halloween dec- orations in her babysitter's yard. She died when struck by Pardi's car. Both men are charged with criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of amotor vehicle causing death. Bianca's mother, Nadine Leduc, was in the courtroom with her family during the trial. The young woman, who recently gave birth to a daughter, Sarah, said she did not know what to think of the day's events. "To be honest, I don't care about him. It's Brandon who hit her," Leduc said. She said she is focusing on caring for her baby daughter, who she believes has her "own private angel" looking out for them. Gervais will render a verdict on June 16. Pardi's trial, meanwhile, will begin May 24 in adult criminal court.