Shores of Erie Wine Festival finished after $66K liquor breach fine and teen death

The chair of the Shores of Erie Wine Festival says the annual event "will no longer happen" after being fined for liquor license offences connected to the death of an employee.

Family dissatisfied with investigation, calls for police chief to resign

The car Bernauer was driving left the road and crashed into the front yard of a home on Concession 2 North, in Amherstburg, after striking a mailbox. (Facebook)

The annual Shores of Erie Wine Festival "will no longer happen," after being fined $65,625 for liquor licence offences connected with the death of Emily Bernauer, says the event's chair.

Bernauer, 18, crashed her car and died after working a shift with a wine festival vendor in September 2014. Toxicology reports confirmed there was alcohol in her system at the time of the crash.

"We were all a little numb," said chairperson Karen Gyorgy shortly after the judge assessed the fines.

"I think that they feel terrible about what is obviously a tragedy," said defence lawyer Patrick Ducharme. 

He added the organizers have six months to pay the fine.

The car Bernauer was driving left the road and crashed into the front yard of a home on Concession 2 North, in Amherstburg, after striking a mailbox. (Facebook)

A lawyer for the 18-year-old's family asked for a $150,000 fine for two liquor licence charges connected to her death. 

The Shores of Erie Wine Festival Corp. was found guilty of failing to inspect ID of a person apparently under the age of 19 and for allowing a person under the age of 19 to drink liquor.

Family calls for chief to resign

After the verdict Christian Bernauer, the teen's father, thanked the assistant Crown attorney but said police chief Timothy Berthiaume made the past three years "very difficult" for the family and should step down.

The family disputes reports suggesting in addition to alcohol the teen also had tetrahydrocanabinol (THC), a chemical compound found in marijuana, in her system at the time of the crash. 

The family provided reporters at court with a list of questions they wanted media to ask police about statements made after the woman's death — specifically about the possibility the teen was texting and driving and could have used marijuana on the night of the crash — which the family claims are untrue.

"We want him to resign," Bernauer added. "There are a lot of great police officers in Amherstburg and we think they should put someone in there who can do the job properly."

Mayor backs police force

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said sees the verdict as "end" of sorts and is hopeful "everyone can move on."

He said the festival was a big tourism driver and provided funding for many of the town's non-profit organizations.

"I think we've noticed it's been missing in the past few years," he explained.

Amherstburg Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said the Shores of Erie festival supported several non-profit organizations in the town. (Joana Draghici/CBC)

DiCarlo said he has not met with members of the Bernauer family since the verdict and is unaware of whether they intend to "seek anything further legally against the police force or town."

"I don't think I'm in a position to speak about that other than to say anything the police department did I believe they did within their jurisdiction of the safety of the town," he added.