Calgary

Crash that killed Calgary chef, filmmaker happened 'in the blink of an eye,' court hears

The crash that killed a Calgary chef and an up-and-coming filmmaker happened "in the blink of an eye," according to a semi truck driver who testified at Nicholas Miklic's careless driving trial.

Nicholas Miklic is on trial for careless driving after being involved in a crash that killed 2 people

Alec Bracegirdle, 20, left, and Jonathan Sobol, 33, died in a crash northeast of Calgary in August 2016. (Facebook / Starbelly)

The crash that killed a Calgary chef and an up-and-coming filmmaker happened "in the blink of an eye," according to a semi truck driver who testified at Nicholas Miklic's careless driving trial.

Wednesday is the first time the friends and family of Jonathan Sobol, 33, and Alec Bracegirdle, 20, have faced the man accused in connection with their deaths.

"Brings a lot of mixed feelings about him ... he's a young man, too," said Bracegirdle's father, Phillip. "I don't think it's easy for anybody."

Nicholas Miklic, 24, is on trial in connection with the fatal crash on Highway 9, northeast of the city, on Aug. 30, 2016.

Sobol, a chef, and Bracegirdle were working together on a film project and were heading to a farm to meet with a local producer. It was Bracegirdle's first solo video project.

Miklic was called to testify in his own defence. He said driving conditions on the sunny summer day were "absolutely perfect" and when he began to pass a semi truck, which he estimated was travelling about 90 in the 100 km/h zone, there were no oncoming cars. 

Just over halfway past the 83 foot-long truck in a rented moving van, the blue Volkswagon seemed to come out of nowhere, Miklic said.

Both vehicles tried to swerve to avoid each other but moved the same way twice.

Then they collided head-on.

Miklic sobbed as he explained what happened next; running over to the car to check for signs of life in the two men inside. 

 "There was no pulse," said Miklic.

He said he began screaming and crying for the families of the two victims. 

'A crash and a bang'

Court heard Miklic was driving a rental moving van, trying to pass a double trailer semi at the time of the fatal collision near Beiseker. 

"Everything happened so quickly, blink of an eye, so to speak," said Doug Ayers, who was driving the semi. "Then it was all over: a crash and a bang and I was going somewhere I wasn't supposed to be."

In his 45 years and "two to three million miles of road," Ayers said he's never seen an accident like this one.

The rental moving van driven by Nicholas Miklic on the day he crashed head-on into a car. Two people died in the collision. (Court exhibit)

The passenger in the moving van that day was Keith Groeneveld, 22, a coworker and friend of Miklic's. 

Groeneveld teared up when he was shown photos of the vehicles involved in the crash. 

"I'm not going to stare at it cause it's horrible memories," he said. 

Groeneveld testified the road was clear and he didn't see any oncoming cars when Miklic pulled out to pass. Once they were halfway past the long semi, they spotted a "little blue car." 

"It's like it just appeared," said Groeneveld.

Passing lane now gone

Both Miklic and Groeneveld got out of the truck. While Groeneveld called 911, he testified, his friend fell to his knees when he got to the crushed blue car. 

At that point in the trial, the judge ordered a break for Groeneveld, who was crying in the witness box. Miklic, seated beside his lawyer, wiped tears from his eyes.

RCMP Const. Benedict Chen testified both victims were dead by the time he arrived on scene around 9:45 a.m.

He described the stretch of highway where the crash happened as an S-curve with two sharp turns.

There was a dotted line at the time but it has since become a solid, no passing stretch of road. Miklic was initially ticketed for unsafe passing, which included a $233 fine. 

'We're not really sure what justice looks like'

The Bracegridles were in agony hearing the details of their son's final moments.

"It's like living that first day, when we were told that our son had been killed," said Phillip Bracegridle outside the courtroom on the lunch break. 

"We're not really sure what justice looks like ... we'd like to see him express his regret of what happened, we'd like to see him acknowledge the things that he's done."

After closing arguments from prosecutor Ron Simenik and defence lawyer Brendan Miller, the trial has wrapped up and provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux will decide on Miklic's fate at the end of January.

The Bracegridle family hopes that brings them some closure.

"Closure is not being reminded of that day.…We want to remember our son before the accident. Remember his life, celebrate his life."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is a justice affairs reporter. She has been covering courts, crime and stories of police accountability in southern Alberta for more than a decade. Send Meghan a story tip at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter.

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