UPDATE: Traffic charges laid in death of Gemma Snowball
The mother of a young woman who died after being struck while walking in the intersection of Sixth and Sixth last year expressed shock after learning the man charged will only face traffic infractions.
“Do I feel these charges are strong enough?” said Margaret Snowball, in an email from her home in Perth, Australia. “Most definitely not. Gemma was killed while using a signalled crosswalk by a driver making an illegal turn from what I have been told. To say that I am extremely disappointed in the charges would be an understatement.”
Gemma Snowball, 25, was heading home from work at the Royal City Centre Safeway on March 11, 2013 when she was hit by a vehicle as she was walking across the intersection at about 10:30 p.m. She was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital but died two days later, with her family donating her organs for transplant. The driver of the vehicle that struck her remained at the scene, police say.
Snowball was on an extended work holiday in Canada when she died.
Her family and Canadian hosts have expressed frustration with New Westminster Police Department (NWPD) at the length of time it took for charges to be forwarded to Crown.
Charges were recommended by NWPD in January, and on Friday, Crown counsel announced that Ryan Follack, 29, of Kelowna has been charged with the Motor Vehicle Act offenses of driving without due care and driving without reasonable consideration.
The charges come with a minimum $100 fine, and at maximum would result in a $2,000 fine or up to six months in jail.
The victim’s mother expected something more serious.
“I would have thought that the death of a pedestrian would fall in the high end of charges and cannot understand the reasoning of the Crown counsel,” Margaret said.
Since her daughter’s death, Margaret said she’s been told that illegal turns are fairly common at that intersection.
“Surely someone, somewhere has to make a stand and champion the cause of a pedestrian’s right to use a crosswalk without fear of injury or death, and if not the Crown counsel, then who?”
For the New Westminster family with whom Gemma lived, the almost year-long wait for charges to be laid has also been frustrating.
“It’s been a waiting year,” said John Debruyn. “It’s on our mind every day.”
Debruyn, who’s still in touch with Margaret in Perth, Australia, and visited her family last year, said they still don’t know the true circumstances of Snowball’s accident.
“I’ve heard three different stories but to this day I don’t know the right one,” said Debruyn. “I would like to hear more, know more. I’d just like to hear the police talk about it.”
When the case goes to trial, Margaret Snowball says she and Gemma’s sister, Hannah, will be there to provide a victim impact statement.
“Our lives and those of Gemma’s family have been irreparably affected by the alleged actions of this person,” she said.
—with files from Mario Bartel