Senior found not guilty in highway worker's death

A Manitoba judge has found a senior charged with killing a highway road worker with his car not guilty.

Senior found not guilty in highway worker's death

CBC News: Winnipeg at 6:00

8 years ago
A Manitoba judge has found a senior charged with killing a highway road worker with his car not guilty. CBC's Angela Johnston reports. 1:54

A Manitoba judge has found a senior charged with killing a highway road worker with his car not guilty.

Mitchell Blostein, 70, was charged with dangerous driving causing death after Brittany Murray, 21, was struck and killed while working as a flag person northeast of Winnipeg in October 2010.

Blostein, who was charged in February 2011 with dangerous driving causing death, pleaded not guilty to the charges earlier this month.

Murray's family was devastated the verdict, which was released Friday.

Brittany Murray's family members speak to reporters outside the courthouse in Winnipeg on Friday. (Angela Johnston/CBC)

"To me, right now with this decision, it just seems absolutely no one is responsible for the death of Brittany," said Charlene Harrison, Murray's mom.

"It's very tough to hear and now I guess we're going to go home and focus on my family and our memories of Brittany."

Neil Murray, Brittany's dad, was particularly upset that the verdict noted his daughter might have been wearing an iPod at the time and not paying attention.

Brittany was hit at 89 kilometres per hour and was thrown over 38 metres. Her earphones were still in her ears, court was told during the trial.

"[Saying] things like, well she had an iPod, it's almost like she's the guilty one," he said.

"It's really really crippling to us as family."

He worries the case will set a precedent for others who drive dangerously through construction zones.

"I think it's a real sad day today for workplace health and safety. The government has spent so much money [on campaigns urging drivers to slow down in construction zones] and all that and then you have something like this," Neil Murray said.

Blostein's lawyer, Hymie Weinstein, doesn't believe the case will have any impact on future ones.

"Each case is decided on its own merits. I  mean, there were peculiar facts in this particular case that may not be in the other cases," he said, adding that his client is also devastated by the crash.

Driver 'went through hell'

During the trial, court heard Blostein was distraught at the scene. He was screaming, hysterical, walking in circles and repeatedly saying he didn't see her and did not want to live if she died.

"I don't think in all my years I've seen someone express what he did at the scene about the remorse he felt, realizing the person was dead," Weinstein said.

"Remorse is too light a word. I mean, he went through hell. They were worried about him committing suicide."

At the same time, Weinstein said he knows the family is also going through hell.

"We know the grief the family has gone through and is going through. It's really a case of mixed emotions — on one side you're happy for your client, on the other side you're sad for the family," he said.

At the trial, Crown attorney Craig Savage argued Blostein was driving too fast and not paying close enough attention.

Blostein had testified that he slowed car down slightly but did not see any workers until just before hitting Brittany.

Blostein's attorneys also argued Murray should have been standing closer to the shoulder, not in the middle of the lane.

Judge says driver's actions 'reasonable'

The judge presiding over the case told the court a person in a similar situation could have reasonably acted in a similar manner to Blostein.

In the written decision, the judge wrote, "There is no evidence that there was anything that was unusual or potentially dangerous about the accused's manner of driving."

But Brittany's family said the judgment is a blow to the workplace-safety movement in the province. Neil Murray said no matter what the speed limit is in construction zones, workers should be able to return home safely at the end of the day.