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Guilty plea in street racing death

A Calgary man pleaded guilty this morning to dangerous operation of a motor vehicle in the 2009 street racing death of another Calgary man.

Michael John Bell, 56, issued the plea in B.C. Supreme Court in the deadly crash on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on April 10, 2009. The plea was a resolution reached by Crown counsel Colin Forsyth and defence lawyer Richard Hewson.

Bell originally was charged with criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm by street racing, in addition to dangerous driving. His trial was to have started today.

Forsyth and Hewson jointly submitted a suggestion to Judge Peter Willcock to sentence Bell to a $7,500 fine and an 18-month prohibition from driving, which Willcock imposed. Bell will have 30 days to pay the fine.

Willcock noted that Bell is 56, runs a commercial drywall business, has been married for 17 years and has three adult children.

"Given these factors, Mr. Bell's immature and extremely dangerous behaviour is difficult to comprehend," Willcock said.

Witnesses said Bell was driving a Porsche Boxter convertible and appeared to be racing 47-year-old Steven Euert, 47, driving a BMW SUV. Both were driving at speeds estimated to be in excess of 100 km/h. The posted speed limit in that area is 60 km/h, with sharp curves that have a posted limit of 30 km/h.

The BMW, carrying two men and two women, lost control near Pritchard Drive, spun off the road, cartwheeled seven times and landed upside down in a field.

Euert died at the scene. Emergency crews used hydraulic shears to remove a 50-year-old woman riding in the front seat. A man and woman in the back seat crawled out through a broken window.

All occupants in the BMW were wearing seat belts.

The three passengers were taken to Kelowna General Hospital and released.

John Sleeper

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