Witness says accused drunk driver refused drive home

Ryan Ross
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Trial underway for Ray Cantelo impaired driving causing death case

The trial is underway for Ray Cantelo who is accused of several charges, including impaired driving causing death.

The man who was allegedly drunk during an accident that killed an Eglinton woman declined an offer of a ride home, a witness testified during the first day of his impaired driving causing death trial Monday.

Raymond Alfred Cantelo, 73, appeared before Justice Gordon Campbell in P.E.I. Supreme Court where more than 50 people filled the courtroom to the point that a sheriff had to turn some away until the trial moved to a bigger room.

Cantelo faces several charges including impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

During Monday's proceedings, Roger Nowe testified Cantelo visited him at his home before the Oct. 22, 2011 accident that killed Stacy Cheverie and seriously injured her husband Bernard while the two were riding their motorcycle on Peakes Road around 4 p.m.

The RCMP were able to get breathalyzer samples three hours after the accident that were more than one and a half times the legal limit.

Cantelo allegedly left the scene and was arrested less than two kilometres away after a witness gave a description of the driver and van, along with the last three digits of the plate number involved in the accident.

A search of his van turned up an empty bottle of whisky under the back seat.

Nowe said Cantelo, who ran unsuccessfully for the Island Party in the last provincial election, was rambling about the election, saying his friend's abandoned him and didn't vote for him.

"I could smell he was drinking," Nowe said.

Cantelo was staggering a little, Nowe said before Crown attorney Lisa Goulden asked him to describe Cantelo's mood.

"Angry, agitated and blaming the world," Nowe said.

Nowe testified that he offered Cantelo a ride and even said he would drive his van so Cantelo would have the vehicle at home.

Cantelo refused and said he was on a back road not far from home, Nowe testified.

Nowe said he knows the smell of alcohol and the signs that someone has been drinking so there was no possibility he was confused about his observations.

"I knew he was drinking enough that he shouldn't a been driving," Nowe said.

Bernard Cheverie testified also testified and left many in the courtroom in tears as he sobbed while looking at the pictures of the intersection where his wife died.

During his testimony, Bernard said he and his wife were on their motorcycle driving down Peakes Road approaching the intersection with St. Patricks Road when a white van pulled out onto the road through the stop sign and stopped at the yellow line, blocking the lane they were in.

Goulden asked Bernard if Stacy said anything to him when they noticed the van.

"Her last word was a scream," he said.

Bernard testified that he laid the motorcycle down as a defensive measure, was thrown clear of the van and didn't remember where the motorcycle landed.

"I didn't look for my motorcycle. I looked for Stacy," he said.

But the court heard that after the crash, Bernard couldn't get to her because of his injuries, which included broken ribs, broken vertebrae and a punctured lung.

The testimony proved too much for some of the people in the gallery who left in tears as Bernard said the van's driver got out and looked at him before leaving the scene.

Bernard said he asked the driver to help them.

"He near drove over me when he left," Bernard said.

Before wrapping up his testimony, Bernard said he still has pain in his ribs and has been seeing a councilor to help him.

"I lost my wife and best friend," he said.

Anne Morrison, the woman who witnessed the accident identified Cantelo in court as the man she saw stop his van in the middle of the road and leave the scene after the crash.

She was in her car driving toward the motorcycle in the opposing lane, but couldn't see what happened because it was behind the van when she heard screeching tires followed by a bang a few seconds later.

Morrison said Cantelo got out of the van and asked her if anyone was hurt, to which she replied yes and that she was going to call 911.

When she turned back the van was leaving, she said.

Two RCMP officers who responded to the call also testified about the events that led to Cantelo's arrest.

They included Const. Dan Magee who said Cantelo's speech was slurred, he had bad balance and smelled like liquor when he was arrested.

Magee also said Cantelo berated him for handcuffing someone who was a senior and did a lot for Canada.

The trial resumes Tuesday.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

twitter.com/ryanrross

Geographic location: Peakes

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