New Brunswick

Reason for chase that led to fatal crash unknown to passenger in pursuing truck

Stephen Hicks testified Thursday he urged his best friend and cousin to "back off" and stop following a car driven by Nicole Novak at high speed along back roads near Sackville before she crashed two years ago.

Father testifies about call during chase, crash that killed his daughter Nicole Novak

Stephen Hicks leaves court after testifying Thursday about being a passenger in the truck driven by Patrick Cole leading up to a crash that killed Nicole Novak in 2017. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Stephen Hicks testified Thursday he urged his best friend and cousin to "back off" and stop following a car driven by Nicole Novak on back roads near Sackville before her fatal crash two years ago. 

Hicks said the pursuit began on Green Road, when a car came up behind and passed the truck driven by Patrick James Edward Cole, 28, of Riverview. 

Cole followed the car, sometimes at 100 kilometres an hour on a rural road with a 90 km/h speed limit, Hicks said.

"I didn't know why we were following them," he recalled thinking during the chase.

The Crown says Cole followed Novak's car for about 20 kilometres before her vehicle crashed, leading to her death two days later.

Hicks was the fourth Crown witness at a jury trial in Moncton for Cole, who is charged with dangerous driving causing the death of the 19-year-old Sackville woman.

Brian Novak, the father of Nicole Novak, testified his daughter's friend Molly Pierce called him at about 9:30 p.m. on the night of the crash. She was a passenger in the car Nicole was driving.

Brian Novak, right, the father of Nicole, 19, testified Thursday about a call from his daughter's best friend during the crash that caused Nicole's death in 2017. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Novak said Pierce told him they were "being chased by somebody" in a big Dodge truck.

He asked Pierce where they were, and she told them they were near home. Novak said he got into his own vehicle to try to find them. He said Pierce was about to say where they were. 

'Oh, Daddy'

"It went from that to screaming," Novak said quietly. "I heard 'Oh, my God.'"

He heard someone say "Oh, Daddy."

It was quiet for a moment or two before screaming by Pierce.

"'She's bleeding' and then after that she started screaming again 'Get away from us, get away,'" he said.

After seeing police cars go by his home, he said, he followed the vehicles for several minutes and arrived at the crash scene to see paramedics pull his daughter from the vehicle. 

Cole, 27, of Riverview leaves court Thursday morning. He is charged with dangerous driving causing Nicole Novak's death. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Hicks testified that Cole stopped at the crash scene. The two men approached the vehicle and saw the driver was badly injured. Hicks said he called 911 and tried to calm down the passenger, while Cole used a jacket to hold up Novak's head.

Hicks said he was freaking out as he tried to answer questions from the 911 operator. Cole told him they should leave — that plenty of people had arrived at that point "and it was under control."

"I know we shouldn't have, but there really wasn't anything we could have done," Hicks said, telling the court he went home and gave a statement to police the following day. 

Driving 'aimlessly'

Hicks testified he had called Cole after having a tough day. They were driving around the Sackville area "aimlessly" in Cole's Dodge Ram truck before the car passed them on Green Road just before a stop sign. 

He said he didn't know who was driving the car at the time and had no reason to think Cole did either. 

Under cross-examination he testified he didn't think Cole's driving led to the crash. 

"I don't believe that Pat did anything wrong, he wasn't — he didn't create the accident, he wasn't pushing them into doing anything that would make them drive faster," Hicks said in response to questions by defence lawyer Nathan Gorham.

Hicks suggested Novak's driving was the issue. He said the car was speeding down a rutted dirt road then "flying" down Route 106 before the crash. 

Novak died in a single-vehicle crash in Frosty Hollow in 2017. (Lise Norden/Facebook )

Earlier on Thursday, Crown prosecutor Eric Lalonde gave his opening statement in the case. 

He said Pierce and Nicole Novak were out for a drive, listening to music on the radio. Then they noticed a truck that started to follow them. 

Lalonde told the jury they tried to get away from the truck by driving down a dirt road and turning off their vehicle's lights. He said Nicole Novak sped up, but so did the truck. Lalonde said the young women were followed for about 20 kilometres before the crash. 

The jury of six men and six women was selected Tuesday. 

After the opening statement, two Mounties who responded to the crash testified about the scene and early investigation. 

Const. Justin Beaulieu testified he was working in Sackville that night, when he was dispatched to a single-vehicle crash at 9:57 p.m. near civic address 5717 on Route 106 in Frosty Hollow.

He said he found two women inside an extensively damaged red Toyota Corolla. Pierce was still in the passenger seat when he arrived.

'Significant injuries'

The driver, who he determined was Novak, was slouched over on Pierce. She had "obviously suffered significant injuries" and was bleeding from her head, nose and mouth, Beaulieu said. 

He said he helped paramedics remove Novak from the vehicle. He said there was no sign of alcohol on her breath or in the vehicle. 

Beaulieu testified there was only one ambulance in the area, so Pierce's father, who had arrived at the scene, took his daughter to hospital in Sackville.

Nicole Novak was initially taken to hospital in Sackville but transferred to Moncton where she died July 18, 2017.

Const. Julie Jones testified about taking photos of the scene and interviewing Pierce the night of the crash. Based on Pierce's statement, Jones later traced the route the vehicles had taken. 

Jones testified it was more than 20 kilometres along Route 935, Queen's Road, Fairfield Road, a rough dirt road, Cherry Burton Road and Route 106. 

Gas station footage shows vehicles

Video surveillance footage from a gas station along the route played for the jury showed a car braking and turning onto Route 106 immediately followed by a truck. 

During cross-examination, Cole's lawyer asked if there were any 911 calls from Novak or Pierce. Jones said there were not. 

He also asked whether there are any more direct routes the car could have taken to Sackville. Jones said there were. 

Lalonde in his opening statement said Pierce is expected to testify.

The trial is expected to resume Friday morning.

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.