On October 28 2017 after an evening of drinking at Shooter’s Bar & Grill in Calabogie, four teenagers, all members of the Renfrew Timberwolves hockey team, got in a car and started to drive home. Tragically a few minutes later their vehicle crashed into a rock face near Burnstown resulting in the deaths of two of the teammates and serious injuries to the two others. Potential criminal consequences for that accident are now playing out in a trial in Pembroke as bar server Ann Senack who served them at Shooter’s is on trial facing two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. If convicted, she faces up to a maximum of ten years in prison.
As The Current reported in April 2019, such charges against a bar server are extremely rare in Ontario. The Current’s research could only identify two other such charges both of which never reached trial because one was withdrawn by the Crown and the other was dismissed by the judge following a preliminary hearing. As also reported at the time the charges against Senack resulted in a “divided community,” prompting a GoFundMe campaign to pay for her legal fees that raised more than $50,000 within a short period of having been launched.
The trial commenced on April 12 before Mr. Justice Hugh Fraser without a jury and is being conducted remotely. It has attracted extensive media coverage and is also being watched closely by the legal profession. The trial is expected to last at least four weeks.
Renfrew County Assistant Crown Attorney Richard Morris is leading the prosecution team and Senack is represented by Ottawa lawyers Michael Edelson and Tony Paciocco. Morris began presenting his case by introducing videos taken in the bar of the teammates drinking which extended over the approximately 90 minutes they remained in the bar before leaving. These revealed that a substantial amount of liquor was consumed comprising initially of three rounds of shots, two pitchers, other mixed drinks, followed by another five rounds of shots, combined with individual beers and other mixed drinks. Evidence also revealed that they carried on drinking outside the bar and that after their vehicle crashed, beer bottles and other liquor containers were found on the road outside it.
Enrico DeFrancesco, a professor at Algonquin College, is an expert on serving alcohol in compliance with the Smart Serve program. He gave evidence about identifying signs of intoxication and how not to serve patrons to the point of intoxication. He stated that as someone who was trained on the program, Senack should have been conversant with the need to keep track of the number and composition of drinks, which he said was an essential part of the program. During defence co-counsel Paciocco’s cross-examination of DeFrancesco, the Court was advised that the defence would be focusing on the actions of the young men which included evidence that they went to their vehicle to drink alcohol.
The trial resumes on Monday April 26.
Click on the links BELOW to read previous articles in The Current on this subject: