Barrie man killed in crash that also left several friends with serious injuries
Christopher Sprecker (SUBMITTED)
A Newmarket court erupted in tears and anger on Thursday after a man accused of texting while driving and killing a motorcyclist was found not guilty.
Michael Rogers, 24, of Oshawa, was on trial for dangerous driving causing death and three counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in a horrific accident outside Orillia on July 4, 2010.
Christopher Sprecker, 55, was out for a motorcycle ride with several of his riding buddies, heading northbound along Highway 12, when he was killed while out for a sunny afternoon drive.
Sprecker was hit by Rogers' BMW and his leg was severed in the crash.
Three other riders — David Yeoman, Robert McEachern and Peter Campagna — ended up with serious injuries. All are Barrie residents and members of the Southern Cruisers Riding Club, which has raised significant amounts of money for grieving children.
Crown attorney Dave Russell argued that Rogers was looking at a text message on his cellphone as he swerved out of his lane into the path of the riders.
Defence lawyer Lydia Riva argued Rogers committed no crime, but rather the tragic incident was a “moment of inattention,” and not an act of dangerous driving as defined by the Criminal Code.
In the end, Justice Cory Gilmore agreed with the defence, and could not find beyond reasonable doubt that Rogers was criminally responsible, and he walked away from court a free man.
As the verdict was announced, Sprecker’s daughter and other family members and friends burst into tears.
Yeoman, a local mortgage broker who still suffers from extensive injuries from the crash, says he was outraged at the verdict.
“This guy crossed the centre line and killed somebody. How do you drive on Canadian highways and get away with that?” he said.
Yeoman described the crash that day as a “horror story,” when he watched his friend die. He said he was next in line to be hit by Rogers’ vehicle, and he slid 40 metres along the road, causing his entire body to become scraped so badly that he was in bandages for 92 days and still is in physiotherapy, as are the other men.
“I was literally shredded. I walked around like a mummy for months,” he said.
Campagna was the next man down, and his foot was so badly broken that it was twisted in the other direction, requiring several surgeries and he will have to walk with a cane the rest of his life.
McEachern veered and crashed in the ditch and suffered two dislocated shoulders.
Yeoman said he was baffled when he and his friends sat in court and heard the verdict.
“We could barely hear the judge, she practically whispered,” he said. “We all looked at each other and we couldn’t believe it.”
He said the day started as a beautiful sunny afternoon ride through country towns. “We all had ice-cream in Kirkfield. … The next thing you know we were shredded all over the road.”
The officer who worked on the case, OPP Const. Trina Gosse, she she was also disappointed with the verdict.
“It is troubling when you see so many people injured,” Gosse said. “The deceased’s daughter was crying pretty hard.”
She noted that even Rogers admitted he had been using his cellphone while driving that day, however the judge could not find beyond reasonable doubt that he was using it at the time of the crash.
Gosse said this was her first case involving an alleged texting while driving causing death.
“But sadly, it is not all that uncommon," she said.