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Woman acquitted of charges in fatal Charlie Lake car accident

Driving was inattentive but not criminally negligent, judge rules
court

A Fort St. John woman was found not guilty last week for her role in a fatal car accident near Charlie Lake in June 2018.

Bailey Grieve-Guenther, 26, was charged with dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm after the accident at the intersection of the Alaska Highway and the 271 Road.

BC Supreme Court Justice Paul Riley acquitted her of those charges on Friday, calling Grieve-Guenther’s driving inattentive but not criminally negligent. 

“I am not satisfied the driving conduct here constituted a marked departure from standard of driving care that would be exercised by a reasonable person,” said Justice Riley. “In reaching this conclusion, I appreciate that the consequences of the collision were tragic, a young woman lost her life and another was seriously injured.”

Grieve-Guenther was driving up the Alaska Highway on June 15, 2018, when her Honda Civic collided in the intersection with a southbound Ford pickup truck that was turning off the 271 Road. The victim, a 19-year-old woman and a passenger in the Honda, was taken to hospital and later died from her injuries. Other passengers involved were treated for non life threatening injuries.

Court heard that data from the crash was rigorously examined by RCMP to determine the circumstances, which confirmed Grieve-Gunther’s Honda was the cause.

Both vehicles entered the intersection when the lights changed and were within the 90-kilometre speed limit. Court heard both drivers had been drinking before the crash, but not enough for either party to be considered impaired.

Grieve-Guenther admitted to changing songs on her car’s stereo, distracting her from the road. Other environmental factors were also considered, including sun glare that impacted Grieve-Guenther’s vision, and she had pulled down her sun visor to reduce the glare. 

Justice Riley said this did not absolve Grieve-Guenther of responsibility, but also said she did not have a history of reckless driving.

"This is not a case involving any clear pattern of bad driving in the time frame leading up to collision,” Justice Riley said. “There is no evidence from the witnesses who were in Ms. Grieve-Guenther's car about a pattern of bad driving. Nor is there any such evidence from the occupants of the truck or others on the road."


Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative. Email tsummer@ahnfsj.ca