His de­fence? Cough­ing

Driver ac­quit­ted in 2015 crash that killed sol­dier

Toronto Sun - - NEWS - TRACY McLAUGH­LIN

BAR­RIE — The widow of a Cana­dian sol­dier killed by a driver who told a jury he was cough­ing — not tex­ting — at the time of the fa­tal crash fears that the case could pro­vide a “per­fect de­fence” for oth­ers.

An­drew Ste­wart, 28, of An­gus — about 20 km west of Bar­rie — in­sisted he was cough­ing when in­volved in the Nov. 27, 2015 crash that killed Mas­ter Cpl. David An­der­son, a hus­band and fa­ther of two.

Ju­rors found Ste­wart, who de­clined com­ment when leav­ing court, not guilty of dan­ger­ous driv­ing.

Out­side court, An­der­son’s griev­ing widow, Erin, said she fears the “cough­ing while driv­ing” de­fence may send the wrong mes­sage to driv­ers who text.

“What a per­fect de­fence. It’s scary,” said Erin, also a Base

Bor­den sol­dier, who added she misses her hus­band.

“He was my best friend,” she said. “Be­cause of a sin­gle mo­ment — a split sec­ond — my boys will grow up with­out a fa­ther.”

Ste­wart was speed­ing at 84 km/h in a 60 km/h zone when he blew through a stop sign at an in­ter­sec­tion just out­side of An­gus, court heard.

He swerved into the wrong lane and struck An­der­son’s

ve­hi­cle, with­out even ap­ply­ing the brakes.

But was Ste­wart in the midst of an un­avoid­able cough­ing fit — or was he tex­ting at the time?

In the end, the jury found that tex­ting could not be proven.

Dur­ing the trial, Crown at­tor­ney Bhavna Bhangu scoffed at Ste­wart’s claim that he was in the midst of a “cough­ing fit” af­ter in­hal­ing his elec­tronic cig­a­rette.

“He was cough­ing? Why wouldn’t he slow down? Why didn’t he brake?”

The Crown noted phone records showed Ste­wart made a string of texts be­fore the crash — one she claimed, was at 3 p.m. — likely the pre­cise time of the crash.

Ste­wart was not in­jured but was taken to hos­pi­tal where he told a doc­tor, “I was cough­ing and must have passed out.”

His lawyer, Mitch Eisen, urged the jury to be­lieve his client, ar­gu­ing, “some­times in life tragic things just hap­pen by ac­ci­dent.”

Trapped in his crushed ve­hi­cle, An­der­son cried out, “help me, please help me.”

He died mo­ments later.


An­drew Ste­wart, of An­gus, stands out­side the Bar­rie court. In­set top, the pickup truck driven by Ste­wart, who was ac­cused of tex­ting and speed­ing while driv­ing and caus­ing the death of Mas­ter Cpl. David An­der­son. In­set right, An­der­son’s ve­hi­cle in the ditch.

Mas­ter Cpl. David An­der­son and wife Erin sit with their chil­dren in a fam­ily photo.


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