'I lost everything': Court hears from man who suffered severe head injury in Penticton beach assault | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'I lost everything': Court hears from man who suffered severe head injury in Penticton beach assault

Brad Eliason, recovering after a May 3, 2019 assault at Okanagan Lake beach left him with a severe head injury.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Chelcie Townend
February 23, 2021 - 3:18 PM

The sentencing hearing for the man accused of a violent assault on Penticton’s Okanagan Lake Beach that put a man in a coma with a severe head injury began in Penticton Supreme court today.

Thomas Kruger-Allen entered guilty pleas on two counts of assault and one count of aggravated assault in the incident.

Crown prosecutor Nashina Devji described the events of the evening of May 3, 2019, when several people were gathered at a fire pit on Okanagan Lake Beach in Penticton.

Witnesses told police Kruger-Allen, who was 22 years old at the time, arrived on the beach and approached a woman, grabbing her by the buttocks. A second woman intervened and was punched in the chest by Kruger-Allen.

Around the same time the victim Brad Eliason, who had momentarily left the bonfire to gather firewood with a friend, returned to the scene.

According to witnesses, he was standing on the beach’s concrete boardwalk when he saw the altercation and asked what was going on. Kruger-Allen then jumped up on the sidewalk and launched a single uppercut to Eliason’s jaw without provocation.

Witnesses said Eliason fell backwards to the sidewalk without any attempt to break his fall, striking his head on the concrete.

Eliason was taken to Penticton Regional Hospital where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture and hemorrhaging in the brain’s frontal lobe. Over the course of several hours his condition deteriorated and after suffering seizures he was intubated and ventilated prior to being transported to Kelowna General Hospital for surgery.

Eliason spent weeks in hospital, much of it in a medically induced coma. Surgeons removed a portion of his skull to relieve pressure on the brain, but attempts to wean him out of the coma failed initially after he suffered further seizures.

Devji told court as a result of the assault, Eliason suffered a significant brain injury and lost everything, including his job, his home, his pet and his wife.

Kruger-Allen, who was reportedly aggressive when arrested, was also found to be in breach of court orders as he was out on bail awaiting sentencing on a previous assault when the beach incident occurred.

Pre-sentence and psychiatric reports prepared for Allen-Kruger described him as man with deep seated anger stemming from what Devji described as “an exceptionally bad childhood.”

She described Kruger-Allen’s childhood growing up in a chaotic home where both parents drank heavily and used crack cocaine. Kruger-Allen witnessed his father choking his mother and found himself abandoned, sometimes for weeks at a time. He often went hungry and was sexually and physically victimized, and grew up as an angry child.

More recently his mother, who has been clean and sober for seven years, has been attempting to re-establish a relationship with her son.

Deji said Kruger-Allen’s has mental health issues that included depression and anxiety, along with anger and temper management. She said psychiatric reports described him as “chronically angry” and suffering from intermittent explosive disorder, explaining Kruger-Allen’s aggressive behaviour “just exists” and alcohol use exacerbates it. She said Kruger-Allen had serious problems with anger and violence.

A Gladue report also described issues similar to what was revealed in the pre-sentence and psychiatric reports suggesting a "traumatized brain" was a partial cause of Kruger-Allen’s anger issues.

Brad Eliason took the stand briefly to give a victim impact statement in which he said he has lost everything.

"I lost my life. I lost everything. My wife left me. I lost our house. I lost our pet. I cannot work. I have screws attaching my skull. It’s such a pain in the butt. Some days it’s OK, some days I would much rather deal with something else,” he said.

His ex-wife Chelcie Townend also delivered an emotional victim impact statement.

“We were a very happy couple… our lives were completely changed,” she said, describing seeing Eliason in hospital the night of the assault, “screaming in agony and vomiting blood.”

“His head was so swollen from the blunt force trauma he’d received, he was unrecognizable,” she said.

She described how a neurologist took her aside and cautioned her that even of Eliason did survive, he would likely be a "vegetable.”

“I felt like I was in a horrible horror movie and could not stop sobbing,” Townend said.

She became emotional when she described how the brain injury and subsequent seizures changed Eliason to the point their marriage failed.

“Eventually the trauma that we had was the demise of our marriage. Brad was left with the physical part of the assault, and I was left with the mental and emotional part,” she said.

Devji said Kruger-Allen’s youth and indicated desire to change were factors in favour of his rehabilitation, but also noted three previous court breaches and an assault charge on his record. She said the “completely unprovoked” assault had shocked the community, in addition to creating more than just one victim.

Defence lawyer James Pennington described the incident as "an alcohol fuelled event" that also involved another party of beachgoers at a fire pit further down the beach.

He said the two parties intermingled somewhat during the evening. His client began fearing for his safety after his altercation with the two women on the beach, and had jumped up on the concrete sidewalk just as Eliason returned from his firewood foraging.

Feeling outnumbered, Kruger-Allen decided to create a diversion, striking Eliason before running away,

Pennington said both Kruger-Allen and Eliason were drunk that night. He said his client had no intention of inflicting as much damage as he did to Eliason.

He also noted the Gladue and pre-sentence report findings, asking out loud if his client ever had a chance with the upbringing he had.

Pennington said at 23, “we shouldn’t be too quick to close the door on him,” as far as rehabilitation goes. He also refuted Kruger-Allen’s diagnosis of intermittent explosive disorder, saying the doctor who made the diagnosis later said he couldn’t be certain his client was suffering from it.

Pennington said his client also bore a lengthy cut across his chest that night and felt he had been stabbed at some point.

The Crown asked Justice Geoffrey Gomery for a sentence of five to six years, while defence argued for a sentence in the range of 30 to 36 months. Kruger-Allen has been in custody for 783 days.

The hearing is expected to resume tomorrow morning.

— This story was updated at 5:12 p.m. Feb. 23, 2021 with new information from the hearing.

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