A Sechelt man has been fined $750 for leaving the scene of an accident last summer that claimed the life of a 21-year-old woman.
Nicholas Forster, 20, was sentenced in Sechelt provincial court on Aug. 27 after pleading guilty to failing to comply with his duties as a driver at an accident scene under section 68 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
An original charge under the Criminal Code of dangerous driving causing death was dropped in May, and a charge of hit and run, also under the Criminal Code, was dismissed at the hearing.
On July 13, 2012, Forster was driving with a passenger in a white Nissan Pathfinder SUV on a forest service road in West Sechelt, when he rounded a curve and saw an all-terrain vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, Crown prosecutor Trevor Cockfield told the court.
“It appears Mr. Forster was not driving excessively fast,” Cockfield said, adding that both drivers made attempts to avoid crashing. “The two vehicles collided, instantly killing Shelby Rowland,” who was the passenger on the quad driven by her sister, Lindsay.
Cockfield said when Forster and his passenger exited his vehicle after the accident, he saw Rowland’s body lying in the ditch and “started to make comments that they had to leave the scene, he’d killed somebody and they had to leave.”
Forster’s passenger tried to call 911 to report the accident, but there was no cellular service available, and the two left the scene, with Forster driving down Mason Road to Heritage and Crowston roads, where they encountered an acquaintance, Alex Clyde. Both men asked Clyde to call 911 and Clyde told Forster to return to the accident scene, Cockfield said.
Forster complied and “he was back in 15 minutes.”
Tim Ellan, Forster’s lawyer, said when his client saw Rowland’s body “and immediately surmised that she was deceased, that resulted in Mr. Forster sort of losing it at the time. He left without providing his name and address to Lindsay Rowland.”
Since the accident, Forster has taken counselling and “is just getting back to a position where he can discuss the incident,” Allen said. “His remorse for his role is evident. Unfortunately the loss suffered by the Rowland family is greater than the loss suffered by Mr. Forster.”
“Certainly my heart goes out to Lindsay Rowland and her family,” said Judge Steven Merrick, after reading a victim impact statement provided by Lindsay Rowland. “For a parent the loss of a child is an unimaginable pain.”
Cockfield, saying Forster’s driving record showed a history of traffic violations, asked for a fine of between $500 and $750.
“This is clearly an extremely tragic incident,” he said.
Allen, who said his client had not been behind the wheel since his driving prohibition expired, asked for a fine in the range of $500.
Before passing sentence, Merrick noted that Forster, a young man, had “managed to accumulate a driving record” that included 12 driver penalty points.
“Everyone has suffered, but because of your past history, there will be a fine of $750,” the judge told Forster.
Forster was given until Oct. 4 to pay the fine.
After the sentencing, Cockfield said his office received the final report on the case in May, and after reviewing it, concluded there was not enough evidence to proceed with the Criminal Code charge of dangerous driving causing death.
Later, he said, after interviewing witnesses, “the evidence changed, which led us to believe that we wouldn’t likely be able to obtain a conviction for the hit and run charge under the Criminal Code.”
While the Crown did not recommend a driving prohibition for Forster, Cockfield said the Motor Vehicle Branch could order a prohibition as a result of his conviction.
“That will be up to them,” he said.