Drunk-driving trial underway in Whitehorse

A 30-year-old Whitehorse man, Michael Schmidt, has pleaded not guilty to six counts of dangerous and impaired driving causing bodily harm. One of the passengers, 23-year-old Jessica Frotten, sustained severe spinal injuries in the accident.

Michael Schmidt, 30, pleads not guilty to 6 counts of dangerous and impaired driving

A drunk-driving trial continued in Whitehorse, Yukon, Wednesday.

Michael Schmidt, 30, is charged with six counts of dangerous and impaired driving causing bodily harm. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The charges stem from a rollover on the Alaska Highway on Dec. 14, 2009. Two of Schmidt’s friends were injured.

Passenger Jessica Frotten, 23, sustained severe spinal injuries and lost the use of both her legs.

So far, two waiters, a woman who came upon the crash site, a paramedic and Frotten have testified.

Friends shared pitcher, bought beer before leaving Whitehorse

Court heard Monday that before the crash, Schmidt and his two friends shared a pitcher of beer with lunch in Whitehorse at a local restaurant.

They then picked up more beers at local brewery Yukon Brewing, where Frotten worked, before heading to Haines Junction, Yukon.

The waitress who served them testified none seemed intoxicated.

A worker at Yukon Brewing said Schmidt appeared somewhat drunk, but admitted he had nothing concrete to base that on.

Frotten testified that they picked up a 15-pack of cold beer and a 40-pack of warm beer from the store.

She told court the 15-pack went into the backseat, while the 40-pack was put in the trunk.

On cross examination, defense lawyer Gordon Coffin asked Frotten about her memory, since she also sustained a concussion in the accident. Coffin referred to her original police statement, in which she said all the beer went in the backseat.

Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale agreed, saying it was clear from the transcript that Frotten said all the beer went in the backseat.

Frotten continued, saying Schmidt was driving at 140 kilometres per hour, and that she told him to slow down.

Schmidt weeps in RCMP video

Court watched a video of RCMP Const. Derek Turner interviewing Schmidt the morning after the crash.

In the video, when Turner told Schmidt of his friends’ injuries, Schmidt began to weep uncontrollably.

He began repeating, "Oh my God, she might die."

Schmidt said in the video that he’ll never be able to make up for it, adding, "They’re my friends, I’ll never be able to sleep again." He also said he’d be going to jail.

Schmidt told Turner he didn’t feel impaired at the time of the accident. He said frost heaves were bad on the highway so he had slowed down. Then he said he hit another frost heave and lost control of the vehicle.

Frotten could not feel legs following crash

Court heard from the woman who first came upon the accident.

Eleanor Emke, 22, testified she was driving from Haines Junction, Yukon, to Whitehorse when she came across the scene.

Emke said she helped Schmidt to load Frotten and the other passenger, Michael Sanderson, into her truck.

She said Frotten kept repeating that she couldn’t feel her legs.

Emke also said Schmidt was crying and appeared sober, with no smell of alcohol on his breath.

She said Schmidt told her neither Frotten nor Sanderson were wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash.

Emke said she drove about 24 kilometres towards Whitehorse before she met the ambulance, and then emergency medical response staff took over.

Paramedic Matthew Burdenie told court Tuesday of Frotten’s condition when the ambulance arrived.

Burdenie testified Frotten was anxious and told him she didn’t have any feeling below the waist.

The trial continues.