Ter­ri­fied teen guilty in hor­rific fa­tal crash

‘FIGHT OR FLIGHT’

National Post (Latest Edition) - - CANADA - AeDan Helmer

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.

Chris Gal­letta

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