Animal lover who stopped to rescue ducks found guilty in deadly accident

A woman who thought she was doing a good deed was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death.

Canada woman stops for ducks; guilty in two deaths – Yahoo!7.

A Canadian woman who parked her car on a highway to help a group of ducklings on the side of the road was found guilty Friday of causing the deaths of a motorcyclist and his passenger daughter who slammed into her car.

The 25-year-old was charged in the deaths of Andre Roy, 50, and his daughter Jessie, 16.

Roy’s motorcycle slammed into Czornobaj’s car, which was stopped in the left lane of a provincial highway south of Montreal in 2010.

Prosecutor Annie-Claude Chasse had a message for motorists.

“What we hope is that a clear message is sent to society that we do not stop on the highway for animals. It’s not worth it.”

Emma Czornobaj said she’s an avid animal lover and only wanted to help the ducklings by taking them home. She is facing up to 14 years in jail. The sentencing will be held August 8.

Is this fair? Many people would stop for animals. I think the message “don’t stop” is severely misguided and cruel. A better message would be to make sure you pull off in a safe place. I’m having a hard time comprehending this story. Is there more too it than we are given?

There is a petition to stop her from going to jail, whatever good that will do. There is also a claim that the police reports show the motorcyclist was going over the suggested speed limit here.

It also appears there may be an issue with the law in this case even though there was no criminal intent.

Regardless, the punishment seems harsh. Shouldn’t jail be used for people who need punishment? Is this helpful?

Driver Emma Czornobaj found guilty on all four charges in duck-linked collision.

Photo credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes

Photo credit: AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes

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  30 comments for “Animal lover who stopped to rescue ducks found guilty in deadly accident

  1. Indrid Cole
    June 22, 2014 at 5:42 PM

    It sounds like she parked in the middle inside lane, jail sounds too harsh to me because if she is that soft hearted I’m sure she has suffered enough already. Maybe revoke her license for the lack of judgement.

  2. June 22, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    Speaking as an EMT and former volunteer firefighter who has stopped to assist at many accidents and such, if one is going to stop and assist with a problem on the road, be it lost ducks or dying people or burning vehicles, one has to do it very carefully and with some thought ahead of time. EMTS and most volunteer firefighters have some training in how to do this, and, although it’s not difficult to learn, it is something most people don’t give too much thought to prior to stopping at an emergency.

    Clearly, she parked in a place where she posed a danger to others. Good intentions will not make poor parking and dangerous highway practices somehow safe. I recall once where I pulled to the side to see if assistance was needed at the site of a car/ deer collision. Although no one was hurt, the deer was dead and an ugly, gory mess. A nurse who also stopped was so shook up by the sight of the mangled deer that she crashed into my parked, unoccupied car which was off the road and had the flashers on on the way out. Poor women kept insisting to everyone, including the police were called, that “she only wanted to help.” If she wasn’t able to keep a clear head at the sight of a mangled deer, I just have to wonder what she would have done had there been mangled humans instead?

  3. John Nowak
    June 22, 2014 at 5:45 PM

    The court decided she was negligent and was responsible for two deaths. I can sympathize with her motives, but it’s improbable that she did it with a reasonable eye towards the safety of other people.

  4. David W
    June 22, 2014 at 6:06 PM

    I have to ask if there was any culpability considered by the deceased rider driving too fast or failing to see emergency flashers on a vehicle ahead. We all know that we can come upon a vehicle stalled out or stopped in a lane for various reasons and we are responsible for safe driving and being able to react in time so I wonder what the rider was doing for safety, I know full well there are those that will say that there is no expectation for a vehicle to be there in the middle of the lane like that but in reality we’re taught to watch out for it aren’t we? Or is this just a society that denies their responsibility because we can use scapegoats?

    • busterggi
      June 23, 2014 at 7:47 PM

      Yes, yes it is, But don’t blame me for it.

    • Bruce Watson
      June 25, 2014 at 1:09 PM

      No flashers or signal – that was the real issue, she just stopped in the passing lane and got out.

  5. Peter Huston
    June 22, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    David W. –where did you see that she had her flashers on? Did I miss it as I did not see it indicated anywhere?

  6. skiavalanche42
    June 22, 2014 at 6:49 PM

    Of course there was some culpability of the driver going to fast for the conditions. However, since he is dead, no further punishment can be issued. Regardless of her intent to help, the fact is that she stopped in the middle of the freeway thereby causing the deaths of two people. She did not intend to kill them, hence manslaughter instead of murder. But she still caused the deaths.

    • One Eyed Jack
      June 22, 2014 at 8:34 PM

      She didn’t cause their deaths. Ultimately, the operator of the motorcycle caused the deaths. Her stopping was a factor, but not the cause.

  7. al fair
    June 22, 2014 at 6:51 PM

    I was just reading an article about how infrequently anyone is prosecuted for killing cyclists and pedestrians with their cars in US cities (especially mine, NYC). kind of an interesting contrast. it’s something that’s been periodically infuriating me for a few years.

    http://m.vice.com/read/you-can-kill-anyone-you-want-with-your-car-as-long-as-you-dont-really-mean-it

  8. June 22, 2014 at 8:28 PM

    She was convicted of criminal negligence resulting in death, not of murder or manslaughter. Since this went to trial, it means she pleaded innocent. The only thing that strikes me as strange about this is that any lawyer would have advised her to plead innocent to criminal negligence — doing so means that she’s going to be sentenced a lot more harshly. It would be nice to say it seems clear that what she did was negligent, so she should have pleaded guilty; but we must remember that we only have access to third-hand information which may or may not accurately represent a small amount of what the prosecutor claimed, and probably does not include any rebuttal from the defense. It is always safest to reserve all judgement on cases that are not concluded.

    • Fred
      June 23, 2014 at 3:52 AM

      Brian,
      Actually, her lawyer wanted her to plead guilty, but the Crown wanted her to serve jail time, so a plea bargain was not possible and so it went before a jury.
      Thing is… even if guilty she will probably not even serve jail time, according to commentators who wrote about the case in french-language newspapers, and in any case she will surely not get the maximum sentence.

    • Ben Radford
      June 23, 2014 at 11:06 AM

      Minor pedantic correction to what Brian wrote: “Since this went to trial, it means she pleaded innocent. The only thing that strikes me as strange about this is that any lawyer would have advised her to plead innocent to criminal negligence”

      There is no such thing as an “innocent” plea to a criminal charge in American jurisprudence; the plea is “not guilty” which is not the same thing. Defendants are assumed innocent until proven guilty.

  9. Overkill
    June 22, 2014 at 10:47 PM

    I’m all for being mindful of animal welfare when on the road, but it pays to use some brains when doing so.

  10. Nathan Hinman
    June 22, 2014 at 11:12 PM

    I’d be hesitant about proclaiming how harsh it is until she is sentenced. That said I doubt any good will be served with jail time and I hope that alternative sentencing options are exercised.

  11. James G
    June 23, 2014 at 3:17 AM

    I saw this a day or two ago, and I concede it surprised me too. In Canada this sort of a conviction doesn’t seem to be the norm, especially when one party rear-ends the other. Most of the time it is assumed to be the fault of the person in the back. As you navigate the road, you are supposed to be prepared to stop at all times, and driving at a pace at which you can safely do so if there is an obstacle on the road.

    There have to be aggravating factors here. Parking in the left hand lane is definitely one. If she could see traffic coming from far enough away, she could have pulled on to the shoulder on the right and gone across to help the ducks. If she couldn’t she shouldn’t have stopped.

    She didn’t put on her flashers, and it was evening. At least two witnesses testified her flashers were not on. ( http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/montreal/Dangerous+driving+trial+victims+died+from+multiple/9906676/story.html )

    It’s a busy highway just outside of Montreal. Stopping on a busy highway always carries a higher risk of collision. As much as we might care for the ducks, a human life is far more valuable than any number of ducks. At least one other vehicle narrowly avoided hitting her while she was stopped.

    The location is described as outside of Candiac on the AR 30 where there is no shoulder on the left hand side, only a divider. That puts her immediately east of the intersection with highway 930, another four lane divided highway, and, I suspect, at a very stupid place to stop.

    I think if you put all of those factors together, as well as the fact that two people died as a result of them, the conviction doesn’t seem quite so far fetched.

    Stopping at the intersection of two busy highways in the left hand lane in the evening without putting your flashers on is just stupid. Criminally stupid.

    • John Nowak
      June 23, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      Left hand? No flashers? That sounds particularly damning.

      It doesn’t sound like she made any effort to keep other people safe. If she had stopped because she thought she saw a person lying at the side of the road, I’d call it a horrible accident.

      But baby ducks? No.

  12. Dubious f
    June 23, 2014 at 5:28 AM

    600 people die each year at railroad crossings in u.s. , some are sheer bad luck, some are plain stupidity. In her case, her actions caused someone’s death.

    If involved directly or not in a death, we can be charged to some degrees of a criminal rule. Also, the level of negligence seems pretty high in this case.

    She was found guilty by a jury of 12. But sentencing comes from a judge. She’ll most likely be purging a much less sentence at home with a transponder strapped to her ankle, seeing the image of the crash for a while.

    Sentences are to punish an action and make the rest of the world think twice before doing the same. Sometimes, they’re just not that efficient ..

    Thinking twice about selling knifes at Walsmart now

  13. Shane P. Brady
    June 23, 2014 at 11:21 AM

    I don’t know how you ram into the back of a stopped car unless you aren’t paying attention.

    • G
      June 24, 2014 at 10:25 AM

      Oh, geez, there are so many ways to be paying attention and still ram into the back of a stopped car. /Especially/ when that stopped car is in the left lane of a highway.

      Poor placement is the first one that comes to mind. Limited field of view. Now, if you’re in a traffic jam, if all the lanes are moving slowly, you have cause to think there might be something ahead. But if all the lanes are moving freely, then when you turn a corner or crest a hill, you are NOT expecting to find that some idiot has stopped for no reason (I know of one car totaled for precisely this issue: an idiot stopped at the bottom of a hill, in the left lane, for no reason, impossible to see before cresting the hill).

      Similarly, just around a curve, just behind something blocking vision from behind (a bush, a billboard, a retaining wall), there are all sorts of ways you can–let’s reiterate the stupidity of this–stop in the left hand lane of a highway! without being obviously visible to people approaching from behind.

      I’ve seen all kinds of stupid driving; I am a defensive driver that people usually describe as “timid.”. Among other incidents, I was once driving with the flow of traffic on anq interstate in rush hour, struggling to maintain that proper distance between me and the car ahead of me (because if you leave space, someone will TAKE it, but I won’t drive that fast without space…and I was vindicated). Yeah, for no damned reason, the car in front of me–left lane of the Interstate, rush hour, everybody going 80ish and trying to ride the bumper of the car in front–the car in front of me squealed to a complete stop. And then just started driving again.

      I am very glad I had space; not just enough space to avoid hitting the idiot, but enough space that as I was stopping, I didn’t get rear-ended by the people riding MY bumper. If I’d been driving like everyone else, there’d have been I-don’t-know-how-many cars going crunch because some idiot came to a complete, pointless stop in the left lane.

      So. Several examples of how you can hit someone stopped on the highway while still paying attention. At highway speeds you need a LOT of space, visibility, and time to react to an unexpected idiot stopped in the left lane; sometimes circumstances deprive you of those.

    • James G
      June 25, 2014 at 5:54 AM

      From what I’ve read, the motorcyclist couldn’t see the car until the last moment. He was following a truck pulling a camper. The truck+camper pulled into the right hand lane narrowly missing the parked car, and he simply didn’t have time to react.

      If he made a mistake, it was following that vehicle too closely. That’s a common mistake, especially in the fast lane. A lot of people seriously underestimate the space they should maintain both to react and come to a stop.

      But parking your car in the fast lane without hazards trumps that. (She maintains she did use them, two witnesses disagree and I’m guessing the jury believed them.)

  14. Peter Huston
    June 23, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    So she just stopped her car in the middle of the highway without turning on the blinkers to save the ducks. Somehow I’m reminded of this: http://www.snotr.com/video/8155/Batman_-_Getting_rid_of_the_bomb

  15. June 23, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    A plea agreement is not necessary to plead guilty. The plea is entirely up to the defendant.

  16. Jes Lookin
    June 23, 2014 at 4:59 PM

    I agree with the comment that running into the back of someone is typically the problem of the person doing the rear-ending. I assume her car was considered a ‘hazard’ since it sounds like she stupidly didn’t pull off the road, but the main liability in the US for insurance would be the motorcycle guy.

    • June 23, 2014 at 5:40 PM

      This incident happen in Canada though. The rules/laws might be different.

  17. Mark Boslough
    June 23, 2014 at 9:45 PM

    Speaking as the father of a 16-year-old girl, I find it incomprehensible that any father could be so reckless with his own daughter’s life. As a former motorcyclist, I am always shocked when I see riders going too fast to stop if something unexpected happens. If you want to ride at excessive speed, don’t do it on a highway where there are other motorists, and absolutely don’t involve a kid. if you run into the back of a stopped vehicle, you are the primary cause of the accident. Emma Czornobaj is partly at fault, but so are the local police who apparently didn’t enforce the speeding laws. So are the road engineers, who apparently didn’t think to accommodate wildlife, and may have set the speed limit too high. But if the reports are correct, the proximal cause was the reckless behavior of motorcyclist Andre Roy, who paid the ultimate price for his speeding and inattentiveness. Tragically, so did his daughter, and to to a lesser extent, Ms. Czornobaj.

  18. Robert
    June 24, 2014 at 12:12 AM

    Her actions really were not “noble.” She imagined what this little duckling was thinking. She imagined that it was “lost” and needed its mother. She thought that taking wildlife home with her in her car was somehow a good idea.

    I love little yellow ducklings as well as the next guy, but this woman’s (and #YesAllWomen’s) actions were crazy. She should be locked up for a while. She’s a menace.

    • al fair
      June 24, 2014 at 12:59 PM

      speaking of crazy, why did you put that hashtag in your comment?

  19. June 25, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    I do not care about her intent, nor that she was an animal lover. Her stupidity caused the deaths of two people. I do not think she deserves life, but I do believe putting her in jail would be proper punishment.

  20. Peter Huston
    June 25, 2014 at 10:23 PM

    I’m sure the poor woman saw what she perceived as a life and death emergency* and panicked, thereby stopping her car in the middle of the highway with no flashers. It sort of goes back to my first post where I said that before people stop in emergencies they should give some thought as to how they would function in such an emergency and what is a safe way to get involved in an emergency situation.

    *Note: I do not consider ducks in the highway a life and death emergency. Although I’d prefer to avoid it, I have run over wild animals in the past while driving and expect that I will, alas, some day do it again and do so with a clear conscience.

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