Man found liable for runaway snowmobile crash near McBride | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Man found liable for runaway snowmobile crash near McBride

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

MCBRIDE - A man has won his case in court after being seriously injured when a runaway snowmobile crashed into him in the McBride area nearly five years ago.

On March 21, 2013, Angelo Passerin, Devon Webb, and approximately eight other people headed to McBride to snowmobile the next day. Webb's sister Sarah and father Dave were also there.

Webb was an experienced snowmobiler, according to a written decision by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Dev Dley. He added that the group drank and socialized when they arrived that night.

The next morning they headed north of McBride to snowmobile the Mount Renshaw area. They paid for their trail passes and headed up a groomed logging road, stopping about halfway to have a beer.

"Several in the group, including Mr. Passerin had a beer," Dley said in his decision. "Mr. Webb was not interested in drinking – he had come to snowmobile."

After a morning of snowmobiling, the whole group gathered for lunch, where several people drank beer and Passerin drank vodka and cranberry juice from a miniature water bottle. Webb didn't consume any alcohol, Dley said.

After lunch the group headed back out and Webb tried to find a route into some lower bowls that would be accommodating for the less experienced riders in their group. Passerin was a distance away.

About 15 minutes after lunch Passerin saw Sarah Webb standing on her snowmobile and waving at him. Her machine was stuck in some deep snow.

Passerin walked toward Sarah to help her, but after walking about 10 feet he was struck by Webb's snowmobile. Neither Sarah nor Passerin heard it coming, Dley said.

Webb had been going uphill at half throttle when he encountered a snowdrift. He applied the brakes and his snowmobile pitched forward and down, tossing him off. The rider-less snowmobile went over a 100-foot cliff, climbed out of a 20-foot powdered ravine and raced at full throttle for one to one-and-a-half kilometres until it struck Passerin, Dley said.

It finally stopped after colliding with Sarah Webb’s nearby machine.

A co-worker of Webb's was a distance away for Sarah and Passerin, and saw the unmanned snowmobile coming toward the pair. He tried to get their attention but his shouts were not heard.

The group tended to Passerin until he was airlifted away approximately three to four hours later.

There were several safety functions on Webb's snowmobile, including a tether that would stop the machine if the rider fell off, a kill switch, and a spring on the throttle to stop the machine within 10 feet if pressure was completely taken off of it, Dley said. 

Dley did not believe that Webb had attached the tether cord to himself that day.

"Overall, Mr. Webb was an unreliable witness," Dley said. "His testimony was fraught with contradictions on material points. His testimony was so unreliable that I cannot accept his assertion that he had attached the tether cord to his clothing."

Warnings that had been on the snowmobile when Webb first got it reminded riders to check the safety features before each trip. According to the decision, Webb testified that he did not check the throttle or the safety cord after lunch.

"In coming to my conclusion that Mr. Webb did not have the tether cord properly affixed to his clothing at the time of the fall, I have rejected Mr. Webb’s assertions that he was wearing the cord properly," Dley said. "I accept the evidence, that if the tether cord had been affixed to Mr. Webb’s clothing, his fall from the machine would have likely caused the cap to pull off the post, thereby shutting off the engine. I have also drawn an inference from Mr. Webb’s failure to do the safety checks after lunch, as an indication that he did not have much regard for safety measures."

Webb argued that if he was found liable for the crash, Passerin should be found just as liable considering he had drank the night before and during lunch.

"The mere fact that a person has been drinking does not automatically result in the assumption that impairment is the natural result," Dley said. "There is no evidence to establish that Mr. Passerin was impaired in any way. I cannot conclude that the limited consumption of alcohol affected Mr. Passerin’s ability to react, observe or avoid the collision."

Although it's not clear how much, Dley ruled that Passerin is entitled to costs.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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