Terrified teen guilty in horrific fatal crash
‘FIGHT OR FLIGHT’
Three girls screamed at Chris Galletta to slow down as he sped along an Ottawa road, gas pedal pressed to the floor, in the moments before a fatal crash.
As Galletta pulled out to pass two cars on a narrow stretch of a rural road at 9:21 p.m. on June 18, 2017, then17-year-old Sommer Foley noticed the speedometer reading 140 km/h and rising.
Her friend Maddie Clement, also 17, clutched her hand in the back seat and told her, “I love you, take care of my child.” Those were her final words, an emotion-filled courtroom heard as a judge found Galletta guilty of dangerous driving and criminal negligence causing death.
The 2007 Chevy Cobalt struck the gravel shoulder at 183 km/h, flipped and skidded 32 metres through dense brush. Emergency responders would have to extricate all four young people.
Clement and 18-year-old Michaela Martel were killed instantly. Foley and Galletta, then 18, suffered serious injuries. Clement is survived by her daughter, 14 months old at the time.
According to the facts of the case, Galletta drove the friends in Martel’s family car to a swimming hole at a quarry. There was a confrontation with a group of young men at the quarry, who began threatening Galletta.
One of those young men, Michael Larabie, would testify at trial, but gave what Justice Jacqueline Loignon described as “self-serving and callous” testimony, as he “attempted to distance himself from any responsibility for the chain of events he and (his friends) set in motion that evening.”
According to Foley’s testimony, all four jumped back in the car as the “tense and scary” confrontation continued. Galletta sped away. Foley, the only surviving witness, described him as “hyperventilating” in a panic, certain he was being chased.
All three girls started yelling at Galletta to slow down. He continued accelerating as he repeated, “They’re going to hurt me … they’re going to kill me.” No one was following them. The girls struggled with their seatbelts — none was found wearing a seatbelt at the crash site, and the car’s airbags did not deploy.
One of the girls shook his shoulder and told him to take a deep breath. “I can’t,” was the last thing they heard Galletta say before the crash.
Galletta left court while awaiting sentencing. Lawyer Mark Ertel argued at trial his client faced a “fight or flight” that led to the crash.