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Witnesses describe seeing crash victim thrown into the air

RNC Const. Karen Didham (left), a collision analyst, speaks with Crown prosecutor Jennifer Lundrigan during a break in the trial of Joshua Steele-Young in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Thursday. Steele-Young, 23, is charged in connection with a car crash that left his ex-girlfriend paralyzed from the chest down.
RNC Const. Karen Didham (left), a collision analyst, speaks with Crown prosecutor Jennifer Lundrigan during a break in the trial of Joshua Steele-Young in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Thursday. Steele-Young, 23, is charged in connection with a car crash that left his ex-girlfriend paralyzed from the chest down. - Tara Bradbury

John Scaplen had just been to the Kent store in Mount Pearl and was headed back to work the morning of March 20, 2017.

He was in his pickup on Pitts Memorial Drive, travelling toward C.B.S. at a speed about 30 km/h lower than the limit, since it was snowing and road conditions were slippery at the time.

He noticed a red car come up behind him in the passing lane. As the driver appeared to be making an attempt to switch over to the regular lane, he seemed to lose control of the vehicle, Scaplen said Thursday.

Scaplen watched as the red car spun to the side of the highway before flipping a number of times. Pieces of the vehicle started flying off as it crashed, and objects inside the car were thrown into the snow.

"The last thing I saw before the car landed was her coming out the passenger side window. With that last flip — you knew it wasn't a garbage bag."

— John Scaplen

By "her," he meant Morgan Pardy, who had been inside the vehicle as her ex-boyfriend, Joshua Steele-Young, drove.

Scaplen pulled over, got out of his truck and made his way over to the crash site. He remembers it being "eerily quiet" until the young man, who was in the red car, said to be Steele-Young, spoke to him.

“‘Buddy, can you help me find my girlfriend?’" Scaplen said the man asked. "I knew then that it was her I had seen. I pointed right to her, told him not to touch her because of her injuries.

Other people had stopped their vehicles by this time, Scaplen said, and 911 had been called. On the fresh snowfall were objects that had been ejected from the crashed car: clothes, shoes, debris, red cigarette packages.

Pardy was lying where she had landed, her body twisted to the point Scaplen knew "it wasn't good."

"Her eyes were wide open. She never made a peep. Not a sound, not a word," Scaplen said. "That struck me as so strange. I don't know if she was conscious or not. Her eyes were open, but she never made a sound."

Scaplen was the fifth witness called by the Crown to testify at the trial of Steele-Young, who has been charged with forcible confinement and dangerous driving causing bodily harm in connection with the crash, which left Pardy, 23, paralyzed from the chest down. Other drivers on the road that day also took the stand, speaking of seeing a puff of snow as Steele-Young's Honda Civic crashed and started rolling.

At least two others saw Pardy as she was ejected from the car.

"She flew right up in the air, very high, probably higher than the telephone poles. I'll never forget it," testified one man, describing Pardy as "in position to make snow angels" as she was in the air.

A woman told the court she had held Pardy's hand while another man — whom she said was an off-duty firefighter — held her head, waiting for paramedics to arrive.

"I don't know if she was trying to talk or trying to cry," the woman testifed. "But it was one or the other."

RNC Const. Karen Didham, a collision analyst, also took the stand, presenting a diagram she and a fellow officer had prepared after attending the scene to take measurements and make calculations. Didham explained how she looked in the demolished vehicle to examine the front passenger side seatbelt.

"In this case, the seatbelt had been retracted and locked, which indicated it had not been worn," Didham said, adding she couldn't see the driver's seatbelt because of the way the car had landed.

Pardy testified over two days earlier this week, telling the court she had ended her five-month relationship with Steele-Young, but had agreed to go for a drive with him to talk on the morning of the accident. They began to argue in the car, she said, and Steele-Young grew angry, speeding up. Pardy said she had taken off her seatbelt when she demanded Steele-Young let her out of the vehicle.

"I was crying. I was screaming, ‘Let me out of the f---ing car!’" Pardy told the court. "It felt like five seconds later I woke up in the ICU."

On cross-examination, defence lawyer Randy Piercey questioned Pardy on the possibility that she had pushed Steele-Young's arm off the gearshift as they were arguing.

Steele-Young's trial will continue in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's Friday.

tara.bradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

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