Emma Czornobaj is hoping to set the record straight about the 2010 incident that saw her stop her car in the passing lane of a highway to help a group of ducklings, a decision that led to the deaths of motorcyclist Andre Roy and his 16-year-old daughter Jessie.
In an exclusive interview with CBC News, Czornobaj explained why she’s appealing a June verdict that found her guilty on two counts of criminal negligence causing the deaths of the pair when their motorcycle crashed into the back of Czornobaj’s stopped car.
Czornobaj, who is now 25, was also found guilty on two counts of dangerous driving causing death and is due to be sentenced Aug. 8.
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Criminal negligence causing death carries a maximum sentence of life in prison while dangerous driving causing death carries a maximum sentence of 14 years.
"It was just a reaction to what was on the road. Some people, which really hurts me, say she chose between human lives and duck lives and that's not what happened," Czornobaj said.
"I've never had a chance to say I'm sorry and that is what I would like to say," she said.
'Heart was in the right place,' says mother
Czornobaj’s mother, Mary Hogan, said her "heart breaks" for Roy’s widow, Pauline Volikakis, who was following her husband and daughter on her own motorcycle at the time of the deadly crash.
"Emma’s heart was in the right place," Hogan said.
Czornobaj’s lawyer is arguing that she shouldn’t serve jail time because there was no criminal intent.
Petition of support
That view is being echoed by a new online petition that is appealing for leniency in Czornobaj’s sentencing.
"Making her serve jail time and ruining what is left of her future will not undo this terrible accident, it will most certainly compound the ugly cost of this accident. Just having lived through it may be more than enough," the petition reads.
It calls on Quebec’s Justice Minister Stephanie Vallée and the province’s Director of Criminal Prosecution Claude Lachapelle to keep Czornobaj out of jail.
More than 10,000 people have endorsed the petition so far.
Czornobaj agrees that a prison sentence would not serve justice in her case.
"It's terrifying for sure. I don't see how it would help. I don't think it's somewhere I belong," she said.
"Of course, it was a mistake. But that's it. It was an accident… It's hard to accept that people see me as a criminal now. It's not easy that it can't be seen as a mistake," she said.