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Aylesford man involved in fatal collision with motorcyclist in Auburn found guilty of failing to yield

The Kentville law courts.
The Kentville law courts. - Kirk Starratt

KENTVILLE, NS - An Aylesford man involved in a fatal collision with a motorcyclist in Auburn last summer was unsuccessful in fighting a summary offence ticket that resulted from the incident.

George Kelly Meister, 56, pleaded not guilty to a charge under the Motor Vehicle Act of failing to yield when making a left turn on a highway and was self-represented at his trial on May 16. A 55-year-old Coldbrook man died as a result of the collision.

The first Crown witness, Janice Hill, said she was working as a cashier at Burt’s Grocery in Auburn on the evening of the incident, Aug. 27, 2017. She didn’t see the impact between Meister’s car and the motorcycle but heard a scream and saw a man on the ground. She grabbed her cell phone and ran out and called 9-1-1.

She said it appeared that Meister, who she knows from the community, was turning left into the store parking lot and cut off the motorcycle, which was travelling in the opposite direction. She testified that it was a sunny, clear day but the sun did not block or obstruct her view.

The second Crown witness, Thomas Huntley, said he saw the motor cycle coming from the west and saw the red Pontiac being driven by Meister, who he knows from the community. He witnessed Meister turning, the impact with the motorcycle and testified that the sun was not obstructing his view.

RCMP Const. Steve Dempsey, who arrived on the scene approximately 10 minutes after the 9-1-1 call, said he observed the motorcycle and the man on the ground. He also saw the red Pontiac parked in the store parking lot and Meister standing beside the vehicle. Dempsey couldn’t recall who approached who but Meister indicated right away that it was an accident, the sun was in his eyes and he couldn’t see the motorcycle.

Dempsey testified that Meister had asked him on several occasions about the finding of a cell phone and motorcycle grip in Meister’s car. Dempsey said the only cell phone recovered was inside one of the motorcycle saddlebags. Meister said he couldn’t recall if he’d given the cell phone to a paramedic, firefighter or police man.

On cross-examination, Dempsey said the sun was low in the sky to the west and acknowledged that the sun can impede vision.

RCMP accident reconstructionist Sgt. Christopher Romanchych, who was qualified by the court as an expert witness, arrived on the scene after dark, as he had to drive from Dartmouth. He authored the report that was entered as an exhibit. He noted damage to the right-hand passenger side of Pontiac and described the collision as a “T-bone impact.

Romanchych testified that both grips were still on the motorcycle when he investigated. He acknowledged that the sun could have been a contributing factor to the collision.

Meister takes the stand

Meister, who took the stand in his own defence, said he slowed down and put on his signal to make a left turn as he approached the store. He said he had scanned the highway, noted no oncoming traffic, and thought he could make the turn.

He testified to seeing a dirt bike come from behind the store, that the driver yelled “motorcycle” and Meister touched his brakes just prior to the collision. He said the driver of the dirt bike left the scene. Meister said he was “mortified” over what happened. However, both Hill and Huntley said that they saw no dirt bike.

Meister said he spoke with Dempsey and told him that he had no insurance or registration. Wearing nothing but a pair of shorts, Meister said he walked around to talk to people on the scene for about three hours. He said he witnessed the motorcyclist passing away and said a prayer for him.

“I feel really badly that he lost his life,” Meister said.

Meister said that because of finding a cell phone on the floor of his car, “I think he (the motorcyclist) might have been involved on his phone.”

Meister said there were “factors” that put him in “direct need” to go to the store. He said he was having a yard sale to get enough money for some food and cigarettes. Other stores were closed because it was a Sunday evening. He said he had asked other people to take him to Auburn but couldn’t find a drive. Meister said this is why he decided to drive without insurance or registration.

While cross examining Meister, Crown Alonzo Wright said Meister wants the court to believe that the sun was in his eyes but yet he also wants the court to believe that he saw the victim on his cell phone. Meister said he’s “assuming” that the victim was on his cell phone.

In his closing comments, Wright said this was a very unfortunate accident that could have been avoided. He said Meister was in a rush to get to the store and wasn’t paying attention, turning right in front of the motorcycle. Wright said Meister is saying that the incident was everybody else’s fault except his own.

“This is a classic case of pushing the blame on somebody else other than the person responsible,” Wright said.

Finding of guilt

In finding Meister guilty, Judge Catherine Benton said she must consider whether in that particular moment if Meister had exercised all due diligence. He testified he was not able to see because of the sun but Benton said that perhaps there’s something else that Meister should have done to make sure that there was no oncoming vehicle or motorcycle when he made the turn, such as stop.

“I can’t be satisfied on the balance of probabilities that you did exercise all due diligence and thus, as a result of the Crown being able to prove the charge against you beyond a reasonable doubt and you not being able to raise a defence on the balance of probabilities, I must find you guilty of failing to yield on that particular day,” Benton said.

Meister was fined $180 and was given one year to pay.

Meister will stand trial on two other summary offence tickets resulting from the incident, one for driving without insurance and one for operating an unregistered vehicle, on July 16.

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