New Brunswick

Paramedic charged after ambulance crash represents himself in trial

A paramedic charged after a crash between his ambulance and a car says he yielded appropriately before running a red light.

Mackenzie Holmes, 22, charged with failing to stop at a red light after his ambulance collided with a car

The driver of the red Dodge sustained injury to her knee in the crash, but says the emotional damage remains almost a year later. (Tyson Bell/Facebook)

A paramedic charged after a crash between his ambulance and a car says he yielded appropriately before running a red light.

But the woman driving the red Dodge Caliber that was totalled in the crash said she heard no sirens and didn't see the ambulance until it was too late.

Mackenzie Holmes, 22, of Hampton, was charged under the Motor Vehicle Act after a crash at the intersection of Crown Street and Union Street in Saint John in September, 2019.

The crash garnered public attention after Holmes and fellow paramedic Brittany Gionet climbed out of the overturned ambulance to help the woman in the other car.

Holmes appeared in Saint John provincial court Tuesday for his trial. He was representing himself. 

The Crown called three witnesses. The first was Saint John Police Force Cst. Benaiah Sok, who attended the scene, took a statement from a bystander and interviewed Holmes and the woman driving the Dodge.

The crash happened at the intersection of Crown and Union streets in Saint John. (Google Maps)

Sok drew a map for the court of what the crash looked like and what direction he believes the vehicles were heading at the time of the crash.

He said when he arrived, the ambulance was on its side, with the damage mostly to the driver's side, and the Dodge was damaged significantly.

Holmes cross examined all of the witnesses himself. He asked Sok if he reviewed the ambulance blackbox to find out how fast the ambulance was going, Sok said no. 

The second witness was Emma Campbell, the woman driving the red Dodge. She said she had just gotten her license six weeks before the crash. She said she was driving through the intersection on her way to the Tim Hortons on Bayside Drive. She said her light was green, and she saw multiple cars proceeding  through the intersection, including one in front of her.

She said she heard no sirens, saw no lights, and she was was travelling 55 kilometres an hour. She said there's a large building on her right that obscured the cars coming from Crown Street down the hill.

"I was not able to see any cars," she said.

Mackenzie Holmes and Brittany Gionet spoke to reporters after the crash last September. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

On cross examination she also said her windows were up and her music was playing, but not at a loud volume.

She said things were "blurry for me" after the collision.

"I was extremely scared," she said.

"I opened my eyes and I was sitting there and I remember my steering was almost pressed up against my chest and all I could just see were car parts."

She said her airbag didn't deploy, but she was wearing her seat belt.

As a result of the crash, Campbell said doctors diagnosed a "hard impact injury" on her right knee cap which made her rely on crutches and an orthopedic brace for a month. She said she's also been suffering from PTSD and anxiety caused by the crash.

"I went through a lot of counselling and therapy," she said.

"It was extremely difficult and it still is to this day."

The last witness called was Tyson Garnett, 19, who was two cars behind Campbell's car. He said her red car went through the intersection, it slowed down and it "basically got hit and it shifted towards the curb."

He said he did not hear any sirens either but did see the lights from the ambulance right before the collision. 

He then got out of his car, approached Campbell's car and asked her to turn off the engine.

He said she was "pretty shook up."

"I would say after she turned it off she went into shock."

Testifying in his own defence

Holmes did not call any witnesses, but he did take the stand himself.

He had notes handwritten on a sheet of ruled paper. He testified his lights and sirens were both on. Coming closer to the intersection, he slowed down and surveyed the traffic. He said he made sure all vehicles in the intersection were stopped.

Holmes testified that he yielded to the red light and proceeded through. He said he was three quarters of the way into the intersection when he was struck by the red Dodge. 

"We were hit with enough speed and force to spin and flip our ambulance onto its side," he said.

"I believe it was very clear to me and to everyone else that [Campbell] wasn't paying attention and that she did not yield to an emergency vehicle."

It's not clear why Holmes is representing himself. Judge Andrew Lemesurier asked Holmes if his partner will be testifying. Holmes said she wouldn't because she didn't feel like she saw enough to take the stand because she was doing paperwork at the time of the crash.

Lemesurier said the case is "not black and white" and he'll consider all facts before making his decision. He's scheduled to give his judgment on July 28.

About the Author

Hadeel Ibrahim is a CBC reporter based in Saint John. She can be reached at hadeel.ibrahim@cbc.ca

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