London

Daniella Leis, driver in Woodman Ave. explosion, may address court today

Daniella Leis, charged for drunk driving in the crash that set off a massive explosion on Woodman Avenue, may address the court at a sentencing hearing in a London courtroom today.

Leis, 24, pleaded guilty in October to four counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm

Daniella Leis, 24, leaves court in London, Ont. on Oct. 2, 2019. (Kate Dubinski/CBC)

Today could be the first time Londoners hear from Daniella Leis, the woman who pleaded guilty last fall for causing the drunken crash that set off a massive gas explosion on Woodman Avenue on Aug. 14, 2019. 

A sentencing hearing via video conference is scheduled today for 24-year-old Leis of Kitchener. In October, she pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm. 

She admitted to being at the wheel of a car that drove the wrong way down Queens Avenue before striking a house at 450 Woodman Ave., a residential street in London's Old East Village.

The car severed the house's gas line, forcing a rapid evacuation that set off an explosion that injured two firefighters and two police officers. No one died in the blast but 450 Woodman Ave. was completely destroyed and more than 70 homes were evacuated. One firefighter spent a week in hospital with serious injuries. A few houses surrounding the blast site had to be demolished.

Ontario Court Justice George Orsini will hear sentencing submissions from the Crown and Leis's lawyer Richard Braiden.

Victim impact statements will be read, from some of the first responders and at least one from the community. 

 Braiden said Leis will also be given an opportunity to address the court. 

"I don't know for certain, but I believe that Ms. Leis will want to make a brief statement," he said. 

It's not expected that Leis will receive her sentence today.

The aftermath of a massive explosion on Woodman Avenue in London, Ont., on Aug. 14, 2019. (Supplied by Const. Rebecca Elliott)

Instead, it's likely the sentencing hearing will adjourn after the arguments to give Orsini time to consider them before he returns with a sentence in a few weeks. 

In October, the court heard that Leis crashed a car registered to her father into 450 Woodman Ave. after attending an evening concert in London. Emergency crews removed Leis from the car and she was taken to the police station and given a blood alcohol test, Leis blew almost three times the legal limit. 

Fifteen minutes after the crash, the house had filled with gas and exploded, sending a fireball into the sky and showering debris down on the neighbourhood.

Impaired driving causing bodily harm carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail. However, Braiden expects the courts will be served concurrently, and that a sentence of anywhere up to three years in jail is possible. 

"She's going to receive a period of jail," said Braiden. "The question for His Honour is the determination of what length of sentence would be appropriate, taking in all the principles of sentencing." 

"It's a very serious matter and it's a delicate sentencing," said Braiden. 

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