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Senior still allowed to drive after nearly killing pedestrian

September 16, 2013 - 3:10 PM

KAMLOOPS - An 86-year-old Kamloops man who ran a red light and struck a 19-year-old woman last September will have his licence back in six months after his sentencing hearing today.

Judge Chris Cleavely sentenced Merle Peter Michels to more than $1,700 in fines and a six-month driving prohibition today, despite the ongoing medical attention required by Chloe Demers-Ardiles. She suffered a brain injury and still can't walk on her own. Cleavely made it clear sentencing is based on the cause of such an accident—not the effect.

"I have to sentence Mr. Michels for his momentary inattention, not the catastrophic (consequences)," Cleavely said.

Christian Ardiles, Chloe's father, was in a tough spot at the hearing. He has compassion for Michels, but thought his licence should be revoked.

"If it were myself, I would have stopped driving, I would have surrendered my license," he said. "There should be a change in the system of how they reissue licenses."

He said outside the courtroom he had to give up his landscaping business to stay home with his daughter. The family has filed a civil lawsuit against Michels seeking restitution. 

He was seen hugging a teary-eyed Michels outside the courtroom but would not speak to reporters about their conversation.

"We've had a very rough go of this, and so has he," Ardiles said. "Look at the guy, he's a wreck."

Crown prosecutor Stephen Lawhead said multiple witnesses saw Michels hit Demers-Ardiles on a crosswalk on Fortune Drive before she was thrown into the air and landed unconscious. She was sent to hospital and put in an induced coma for several weeks to allow for brain swelling to go down.

Her father read aloud a victim impact statement today describing the impact of the accident on her life. She needs daily assistance after 'severe' brain damage, learning to breathe, eat and walk again and has suffered physical scarring, poor vision and memory loss.

"I'm not the same Chloe," Ardiles read from the statement. "I still have hopes and dreams, but first I need to learn how to walk without help from the walking sticks and help from the person beside me."

Michels lives in Kamloops with his wife and retired with 65 years experience driving commercial trucks.

"For the amount of driving he has done, he has a very limited driving record," said defence lawyer Rob Bruneau.

Bruneau said Michels donated $500 to a trust fund set up for Demers-Ardiles following the accident.

"It was a very unfortunate thing that happened and I've got to live with that for the rest of my life," Michels said on his own behalf.

Ardiles was unhappy with the decision.

"It seems unfair, but it is the law," he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email:, call: (250) 319-7494 or tweet: @jess__wallace.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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