Driver testifies in own defence about crash that killed Pitt Meadows couple
21-year-old, 19-year-old killed while driving home from Justin Bieber concert in 2010
Licensed practical nurse Andelina Hecimovic testified in her own defence Wednesday at her retrial on two charges of dangerous driving causing death in connection with a 2010 crash that killed a young couple in Pitt Meadows.
Now 29-years-old, Hecimovic told the court that on Oct. 19, 2010, she worked a 3:30 p.m. PT to 11:30 p.m. PT shift in the emergency room of Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody.
"The evening was very chaotic, very stressful at times," Hecimovic testified in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.
That night, Hecimovic said she worked with a team treating a teenage boy who appeared to have overdosed. At one point, he vomited on the young nurse.
"It was running all over my pants. I ran to the backroom for spare scrubs. Then I went back to the triage nurse to see what she needed," Hecimovic told the court.
"It was such a long day. I was overwhelmed. It was just such a heavy shift. I had never gone through anything like that before," said Hecimovic, who received her LPN diploma in September 2009 and started regular shifts at Eagle Ridge Hospital in July 2010.
Hecimovic testified that a senior nurse allowed her to leave work early at 11:15 p.m PT, when she headed to her boyfriend's apartment in Maple Ridge.
Hecimovic responded "yes" when asked by her defence lawyer if she may have been speeding, going 90 kilometres an hour or possibly even 100 km/h.
"Throughout my drive, I'm thinking back to my incident, thinking back to my work day and the boy is on my mind. I was on the verge of tears, but I was containing everything," said Hecimovic.
"There was an odor and I see vomit on my shirt and I lost it. I burst into tears and I was very overwhelmed.
"I came to an area in the road that I thought was an open lane and I went into the open lane," she told the court, pausing to compose herself and wipe away tears.
The lane on Lougheed Highway that Hecimovic was driving in was not a through lane, but rather a right-turn-only lane onto Harris Road.
"I get to a point where I'm in the intersection and see the red light, and I see a pole in front of me, and I'm about to hit the pole. I panicked. I didn't know what to do. I turned the wheel left to avoid the pole."
Hecimovic lost control of her Toyota Paseo, and it flipped over the highway median, shearing off the roof of an oncoming Suzuki Swift.
21-year-old Johnny De Oliveira was driving. He had just picked up his 19-year-old girlfriend Beckie Dyer after a Justin Bieber concert.
The young couple died at the scene of the crash.
Hecimovic was taken to hospital with a broken neck.
In cross-examination, Crown counsel Andrew Blunt suggested that Hecimovic tried to downplay her awareness of the intersection by saying she had only driven the stretch of road "one or two times."
Blunt pointed out that over the 22 months before the accident, Hecimovic, by her own admission, would have travelled the road between 92 and 184 times to visit her boyfriend's home.
Hecimovic told the court that was true, but she wasn't driving the route herself until after she got her driver's license and new driver "N" decal in July 2010, only three months before the mishap.
This is the second time Hecimovic has taken the stand to tell her side of the story about what happened six years ago, because it is the second time she has been on trial for the deadly crash.
After a 2013 trial, Hecimovic was acquitted by a judge who said the accident was tragic, but decided Hecimovic wasn't intentionally driving dangerously and the crash was the result of a momentary lapse in judgement.
The Crown appealed and won a new trial.
Hecimovic went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to have that order quashed, but lost.
On Wednesday, the public gallery in the New Westminster courtroom was full of friends and family members of the young couple who died in the crash, as well as friends, family and nursing colleagues of Hecimovic.