West Kelowna  

Street racer pleads guilty

The trial of a 56-year-old Calgary man came to an end before it could begin after he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Michael Bell had been facing three charges including Criminal Negligence Causing Death, Criminal Negligence Causing Injury and Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle in connection with the death of a second Calgary man on Boucherie Road in April of 2009.

Through a joint submission put together by his lawyer Richard Hewson and Crown Prosecutor Colin Forsyth, Bell pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle.

In reading his decision, Justice Willcock ordered Bell to pay a $7,500 fine and prohibited him from driving for 18 months. He referred to Bell’s conduct as extremely dangerous, and his decision to speed as surprisingly immature.

The crown’s justification for the joint submission was it would have been hard to prove in a court of law, beyond a reasonable doubt that the two cars were actually street racing.

Every eye witness that spoke with police after the accident said Bell’s red Porsche Boxter was the lead car and the second vehicle, a white BMW 335 was always trailing anywhere between 10-100 feet behind.

Witnesses also told police there was no prior discussion of a race or talk of who could get to the destination faster when both parties left a residence in West Kelowna shortly after 12 p.m. on April 10.

The two vehicles were speeding southbound from Ogden Road when the BMW lost control near Pritchard Drive, left the road and flipped end-over-end seven times before coming to rest on its roof in a field.

The charge of Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle was more straightforward after numerous witnesses told police they were forced to pull over to the side of the road, fearing they would be hit by the two speeding cars.

While the speed limit on Boucherie Road is 60 kilometres per hour, the curve where the accident took place has signage warning drivers to slow down to 30 km/h. Witnesses estimated the vehicles were travelling at between 80-100 km/h prior to the crash.

Steven Kurt Ewert, the driver of the BMW, died at the scene. The other three passengers, including Ewert’s wife, sustained injuries and were taken to Kelowna General Hospital.

Bell’s wife was the other passenger in the Porsche. All six people were from Calgary.

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