Kevin Connell’s family outraged that driver wasn’t tested for drugs or alcohol at the scene
BY MAX HARROLD, THE GAZETTEOCTOBER 12, 2009
MONTREAL – Kevin Connell’s grieving and outraged family pleaded for police to test the driver of a car that struck and killed the 23-year-old downtown Tuesday for drugs or alcohol.
Connell’s body was dragged under the car for three blocks.
But the family’s pleas were met with the harsh legal reality that such a tragedy on its own is not reason enough to check whether or not the driver involved was impaired.
A spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving said the incident was another reason to support more random breath-testing of drivers.
Police said the white BMW that hit Connell at 1:50 a.m. on Sherbrooke St. at Union Ave. did not come to a stop until about 200 metres away when it reached Durocher St.
Police and Urgences-Santé technicians spoke to the 32-year-old driver at the scene, but did not test him with either a Breathalyzer or saliva test or request a blood test.
“He hadn’t taken any alcohol so he was not tested,” Montreal police Constable Olivier Lapointe said.
“We can’t force anyone that has no signs or symptoms to take a blood test.”
Connell’s body, however, would likely be tested for drugs and alcohol, he said.
Connell was sitting near or standing next to his bicycle when he was hit and dragged under the vehicle, police said.
Connell’s aunt, Sarah McEvoy, took strong exception to the idea he might have been drunk and low to the ground, out of the driver’s view in the rainy night.
“He’s not some nameless kid who got killed in the street,” she said. He was reliable and hardworking with a job as a busboy at Winnie’s bar on Crescent St.
He used his bicycle to get to and from work. He might have been taking a break to smoke a cigarette while sitting on the sidewalk curb, she said.
“How could they not test the driver?”
Connell moved to Montreal in March from his hometown of Miramichi, N.B., 800 kilometres east of here.
“He was a good boy from a small town with a dream of being a musician,” she said.
At Winnie’s Tuesday night, several staff didn’t know Connell died.
“It’s terrible,” said Greg Lajeunesse, a fellow busboy. “He was a super nice guy. He was very quiet, but when you talked to him, you knew he was sincere.”
He described Connell as a tall man with red hair and a thick red beard.
Connell moved here after finishing his B.A. at a university in the United States. He had been working at Winnie’s for the last six months.
“He played the keyboard and guitar and he sang,” his aunt said.
“We always teased him that he sang like Leonard Cohen,” said McEvoy, who last spoke to her nephew on Monday before he went to work. Connell completed his shift at 5 or 6 p.m., according to Lajeunesse.
Connell was the youngest of six children, McEvoy said.
Connell’s uncle Dan McEvoy said from Halifax that Connell’s relatives were devastated.
“My sister (Connell’s mother) is beside herself,” said Dan McEvoy, 54. “It’s especially hard for everyone because (Connell’s) father died of cancer last year.”
“This family doesn’t deserve this,” he added. “These are the kinds of kids everyone wants to have.”
Theresa-Anne Kramer, a MADD spokesperson, said the group has been calling for more roadside testing even when there are no signs of intoxication.
MADD believes such measures would stand up to court challenges that they might be an undue invasion of privacy.
“The reality is that the amount of deaths because of impaired drivers justify it. People get searched at airports or going into court.”
Lapointe said dragging a body under a car “can be an element” leading police to test a driver for intoxication, but it needs to be accompanied by other signs.
“This driver came out of the car. He was solid. His pupils weren’t dilated. He gave us his ID papers right away,” Lapointe said.
“He looked us straight in the eyes.”
Tuesday night police said the investigation was ongoing and that they planned to meet with the driver again. The possibility of criminal charges against the driver were slim, but police did not rule out the possibility.
“There other elements we need to check,” said Constable André Leclerc.
Jason Magder of The Gazette contributed to this report