Saskatchewan Court of Appeal orders new trial in fatal impaired driving crash

SASKATOON — Saskatchewan's highest court has overturned the convictions of a man found guilty of impaired driving causing the deaths of two people in a case that focused on who was behind the wheel.

Kiel Stewart was convicted in 2018 of dangerous driving, impaired driving and driving while his blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit, and was sentenced the following year to six years in prison.

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The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has quashed the convictions and ordered a new trial.

During his trial, Stewart argued that he had driven the car on Oct. 16, 2016, and was guilty of dangerous and impaired driving, but said he was not the driver at the time of the crash.

The trial judge rejected the testimony and, on the basis of circumstantial evidence, concluded that Stewart was the driver.

Brett Busse of Watrous, Sask., and Adam Powell of Hay River, Alta., died in the single-vehicle crash and David McCarthy, the car’s owner, survived with severe injuries.

"There was no direct evidence that Mr. Stewart was driving at the time of the accident," Justice Brian Barrington-Foote wrote in the Appeal Court ruling released last week.

"The trial judge found that Mr. Stewart’s evidence that he and Mr. McCarthy had switched places was not credible."

Media reports from the trial said witnesses saw the car flip three times as it crashed near Young, Sask, a small community southeast of Saskatoon.

First responders found Stewart in the back seat, but his shoe was in the front. On the witness stand, he said he had no memory of the crash.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 20, 2020.

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