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'My next thought was I'm going to die here'


He was driving home having just finished his shift at Muskrat Falls.But what happened on the Trans-Canada Highway that day made Clarence Coombs believe his life was over too.

As he was heading east towards St. John's, near Soldiers Pond, his black 2005 Saturn was suddenly struck from behind. The impact was so great, he struggled to keep control of the car, which veered sideways.

"I thought (the driver) was dead at the wheel or knocked out," Coombs said.

Seconds later, the same red pickup truck struck Coombs' car again. This time, broadside. The pickup was pushing him towards the ditch.

"My next thought was I'm going to die here," he said.

By some miracle, Coombs was able to pull away and get the car to the side of the road.

"I never before felt I was looking death in the eyes. That day, I did," he said.

Coombs' comments were part of his victim impact statement, which was presented today at provincial court in St. John's in the sentencing hearing for Freeman William Taylor.

Taylor, who is not in custody, pleaded guilty to exceeding the legal blood alcohol level, dangerous driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

Coombs was not in the courtroom. As Crown prosecutor Mike Murray read Coombs' statement, Taylor hung his head and stared at the floor.

The incident happened at 5:30 a.m. on June 21, 2014.

Taylor had been drinking beer and was driving back to his home in Conception Bay South from his cabin at Brigus Junction.

Minutes after he rammed Coombs' truck, a man who had been waiting for a car pool ride at the Foxtrap Access Road saw the red pickup truck with a flat tire go off the road. The driver staggered out and ran into the woods.

When police arrived, they noticed beer bottles inside the pickup, which they found out was registered to Taylor.

At 6:45 a.m., police dogs tracked Taylor in the woods and on a trail. Officers found him sitting down in the trees having a cigarette. He had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol and had slow and deliberate body movements, officers noticed.

Taylor co-operated with police and admitted he had been drinking since the day before and that he should have stayed at the cabin.

"There's no sense fighting it," Taylor told officers after he was arrested. "I was the stupid one."

Breathalyzer tests taken at 8:15 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. indicated readings of 170 ml and 180 ml.

The investigation revealed Taylor had pushed Coombs' car 300 metres (almost 1,000 feet) on the highway after the collision.

Coombs suffered a soft-tissue damage to his back, which requires treatment from a chiropractor. He said the incident has also made him a nervous driver and has caused him to have flashbacks and lose sleep.

Since this is Taylor's second drunk driving conviction (his first in 2009), Murray recommended Taylor get a 10- to 12-month jail sentence, with a three-year driving prohibition and a period of probation.

"I've prosecuted a lot of drinking and driving cases," Murray said, "but I've never seen anything like this.

"Mr. Coombs is lucky to be alive."

Defence lawyer Jon Noonan pointed out that Taylor's pre-sentence report was positive and deemed him as a low risk to reoffend.

He said Taylor has a job, has no addiction issues and hasn't had a drink since the incident.

Noonan suggested a blended sentence — the required 30-day jail term for the impaired charge and nine months' conditional sentence for the other two.

If a prison term is required, Noonan suggested six months would be sufficient.

Judge Mark Linehan will render his decision on July 21.

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyCourt

 

 

As he was heading east towards St. John's, near Soldiers Pond, his black 2005 Saturn was suddenly struck from behind. The impact was so great, he struggled to keep control of the car, which veered sideways.

"I thought (the driver) was dead at the wheel or knocked out," Coombs said.

Seconds later, the same red pickup truck struck Coombs' car again. This time, broadside. The pickup was pushing him towards the ditch.

"My next thought was I'm going to die here," he said.

By some miracle, Coombs was able to pull away and get the car to the side of the road.

"I never before felt I was looking death in the eyes. That day, I did," he said.

Coombs' comments were part of his victim impact statement, which was presented today at provincial court in St. John's in the sentencing hearing for Freeman William Taylor.

Taylor, who is not in custody, pleaded guilty to exceeding the legal blood alcohol level, dangerous driving and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

Coombs was not in the courtroom. As Crown prosecutor Mike Murray read Coombs' statement, Taylor hung his head and stared at the floor.

The incident happened at 5:30 a.m. on June 21, 2014.

Taylor had been drinking beer and was driving back to his home in Conception Bay South from his cabin at Brigus Junction.

Minutes after he rammed Coombs' truck, a man who had been waiting for a car pool ride at the Foxtrap Access Road saw the red pickup truck with a flat tire go off the road. The driver staggered out and ran into the woods.

When police arrived, they noticed beer bottles inside the pickup, which they found out was registered to Taylor.

At 6:45 a.m., police dogs tracked Taylor in the woods and on a trail. Officers found him sitting down in the trees having a cigarette. He had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol and had slow and deliberate body movements, officers noticed.

Taylor co-operated with police and admitted he had been drinking since the day before and that he should have stayed at the cabin.

"There's no sense fighting it," Taylor told officers after he was arrested. "I was the stupid one."

Breathalyzer tests taken at 8:15 a.m. and 8:35 a.m. indicated readings of 170 ml and 180 ml.

The investigation revealed Taylor had pushed Coombs' car 300 metres (almost 1,000 feet) on the highway after the collision.

Coombs suffered a soft-tissue damage to his back, which requires treatment from a chiropractor. He said the incident has also made him a nervous driver and has caused him to have flashbacks and lose sleep.

Since this is Taylor's second drunk driving conviction (his first in 2009), Murray recommended Taylor get a 10- to 12-month jail sentence, with a three-year driving prohibition and a period of probation.

"I've prosecuted a lot of drinking and driving cases," Murray said, "but I've never seen anything like this.

"Mr. Coombs is lucky to be alive."

Defence lawyer Jon Noonan pointed out that Taylor's pre-sentence report was positive and deemed him as a low risk to reoffend.

He said Taylor has a job, has no addiction issues and hasn't had a drink since the incident.

Noonan suggested a blended sentence — the required 30-day jail term for the impaired charge and nine months' conditional sentence for the other two.

If a prison term is required, Noonan suggested six months would be sufficient.

Judge Mark Linehan will render his decision on July 21.

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyCourt

 

 

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