Woman who caused fatal crash saving ducklings faces life in prison

QUEBEC — A Quebec woman who stopped her car on a highway for crossing ducks was found guilty of a fatal crash in court.

A jury concluded the victims — a motorcyclist and his daughter — died because of the woman’s actions.

Emma Czornobaj, 25, hid her face as she left the courtroom where she was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death and dangerous driving causing death.

The verdict comes almost four years to the day after her deadly decision. Czornobaj parked her car in the left hand lane of a highway and tried to rescue a group of ducks.

Seconds later, a motorcycle crashed into her Honda Civic. Officials said 50-year-old Andre Roy and his 16-year-old daughter Jessie died of injuries sustained in the crash.

Throughout the trial, the defense called it an unfortunate accident, not a criminal act. They said there was no ill will at all, no alcohol, no drugs, no speeding, no race.

Marc Labelle says he may appeal the judge’s decision.

“I’m not sure in Canada you can be found guilty of a crime with that short proof of an intent,” he said.

The defense is asking for Czornobaj not to serve any jail time.

Sentencing arguments will be heard August 8th.

CNN contributed to this report.

38 comments

  • Anna Bromley

    Maybe the person driving the bike should have been paying attention to what was in front of him, and he may not have crashed into a parked car. I’m pretty sure that’s the only way you end up in an “accident” with a vehicle that isn’t moving, because you aren’t looking in front to say “hey, I’m coming up on this object way to fast and I need to slow down/stop”

    • bella 07

      Anna,I totally agree with you.It is sad that this happened but it usually is your fault if you hit someone from behind.What if she was stopped because of car trouble.Would that have had the same outcome? I doubt it.Some things just don’t make sense.

    • George

      Consider this. It’s night time and you are following a semi truck. You signal, shoulder check and change lanes into the left lane to pass. Going highway speeds at night time with a stopped car in the left lane how can you see the stopped car with no four way flashers on and stop in time.

  • Jennie

    WOW so sad but do why blame the driver she’s a young woman why restoring her life … the driver hit her . If she had car trouble there would be no questions but that she was help the little duck we threw the book at her. Its so sad the people lost there life’s but why should the young lady ???

  • Glenn

    I agree Anna. It is sad that this happened. Now 3 peoples lives are messed up. But the truth (I am a motorcycle rider) is when you see another vehicle parked on the shoulder or in the roadway you slow down as much as necessary to see what is going on to be able to make an evasive maneuver. How would anyone know why the vehicle was there. It could have been a breakdown. If it was a mechanical problem and he ran into the vehicle would they have charged the driver in that situation. My question is did she have her 4 way flashers on? If she did not then she should have. But the bottom line is the bike rider apparently was either speeding or not watching what he was doing. The term Aim High In Steering means that you need to see 5 seconds ahead whenever possible in order to adjust to all situations.

  • Sandy Craver

    How dumb is that jury? The girl was stopped and had her hazard lights on. The driver of the bike just wasn’t paying attention and was traveling too fast. How is that her fault?

  • Glenn

    I commented before I saw the video. 129kilometers per hour is equivalent to 80+ mph. The motorcycle guy was going way too fast. I did see that she had her 4 way flashers on, so he should have been more alert and should have seen them and made corrections. With my kids on the back of my bike I never drive fast. Actually I always drive 5 mph slower than the speed limit.

  • 420 Associate

    Sad but I think she’s guilty because the victims were 50 & 16. On the same not don’t really know how laws in Canada work

  • Suzi Wallace Fire

    The bikers should have paid attention…they carreened into a stopped vehicle. How is this the car driver’s fault? It is very sad that they were killed, but this compassionate women should not be sent to jail AT ALL for THEIR negligence.

  • Marilynn Heasion

    I don’t believe she’s at fault either… The bike driver was going too fast, and he should have been more careful. So sad!

  • 1SHOT1KILL

    I am absolutely amazed at the total lack of intelligence in some of these response. First of all how many of you were actual witness to the incident?? Were you even in the court room?? No and no? So how can you say she wasn’t at fault?? Maybe the laws are different up if Canada. Having driven in many countries around the world, most all major highways have shoulders or hazard lanes. In some countries it is against the law to stop in the middle or on a highway, exactly for this very reason. She chose to stop in the middle of a highway. Doing so put every other drive on that highway in great jeopardy to serious injury or death. Any driver driving down a major highway has the right to assume that traffic is moving and there is no parked in the middle of it, regardless of whether they have the hazard blinkers on or not. Again that is what the shoulder or hazard lanes are for. Her actions and her actions alone caused the deaths of 2 innocent people. They certainly did not chose to run into her parked car. Here actions and choices alone caused this incident. IMO she is guilty. Whether or not she deserves life in prison, I don’t think so, because I believe there was no intent to cause an accident much less the deaths 2 innocent people. But if she broke the law by parking her car in the middle of the highway, then she caused the deaths by criminal negligence and dangerous driving. I trust that the judge and jury, who heard all the evidence, made the correct decision.

    • Kate

      The right to assume!? No. Not at all. One must be in control of their vehicle at ALL times. They killed themselves, no reason for her to take the blame for their negligence!

  • Robert B Bracey

    Were these ‘ducks’ or ‘geese’? If they were geese, no loss if they get run over, plenty of replacements her in NC where they are not migrating, just sitting around and crapping all over the place. Need open season on them and use the meat to feed the hungry and homeless. Sorry for the loss of life no matter who is to blame. Just need to remember who is on top of the food chain….ducks and geese are not!

    • Steve R.

      There were plenty more replacement people all around also. I would assume there were plenty more humans in the area than ducks. There always are. Human beings are destroying the planet, polluting the water and damaging the atmosphere. The highway was laid over what was the duck’s home. Humans are the only animals who place so much value on humans. Humans are incredibly destructive and annoying. Get over yourself.

  • 1234567890

    Wow, this is absolutely crazy. How are you not going to realize a car is stopped and parked. That would almost be like getting in trouble for someone else rearending you. I could see if she slammed on her brakes, but then, you should be paying attention. Most highways are two laned, which means they could of went around the car in which she had parked.

    • Steve R.

      Have you seen the position of the car? It was partially in the lane, the rest was in the emergency lane. Based on the impact it was clear the motorcycle was passing someone in the left lane in the emergency lane and slammed into the car. That is probably why no other cars hit it. His wife was riding with them also but she didn’t hit it. So clearly the motorcycle driver did something to contribute. Very sad story and she should have not parked where she did, it was stupid – but the possibility of life in prison? Outrageous.

  • J. Richmond

    In the US of A she was in the fast lane or passing lane. Maybe he didn’t see the car BECAUSE HE PULLED OUT TO PASS and there she was! If he could have stopped he would have. Do you think he wanted to die? Maybe you people think the judge and jury didn’t think of that before finding her guilty!!! Dang fools…

    • Anna Bromley

      He was going 80 mph on a motorcycle. That’s pretty darned reckless. The faster your speed is, the farther ahead you are supposed to be paying attention. It doesn’t matter where her car was honestly, because he should have seen it in advance and GONE AROUND. But wait, they can’t charge him with reckless driving, because he not only killed himself, but his daughter as well by rear ending someone at 80 mph!

      • chase

        You ever think speed limits are different in other countries? What America sees as “way too fast” is crawling in some places.

      • Canuck Eh

        Anna, if he was driving 120, then he was doing the same speed as everyone else on that highway. The limit there would be 110, but the cops typically give you to 120 before they think of pulling you over. Even the defence conceded he was not speeding. You holler at everyone else for being ignorant of the facts, but you have some learning to do yourself. She’s guilty of two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing death, and whether she had her flashers on or not absolves her of NOTHING. She could have done what she was trying to do far more safely, by pulling over onto the left shoulder (yes, there are shoulders on the highways in Canada), instead of PARKING in the PASSING LANE. She had better options, but chose not to exercise those options, and her decision caused the death of two people. So how about shutting it, or better yet, try asking some questions instead of making stupid assumptions. That goes for everyone passing judgement in these comments.

  • Tyler

    Well I don’t think she should of stopped in the middle of the lane but maybe the shoulder of the road at least? I had an experience one time driving down the interstate where a vehicle ahead was completely stopped in the middle of the road and almost caused a big accident. I was behind someone when all of a sudden I see them swerve out of the way revealing a parked vehicle in the middle of the road and mind you I’m going about 70mph at this point with plenty of people behind me doing the same. I managed to swerve thank God I was paying attention but if I were to look away for even a second I would be dead. I know she meant good but just keep thought of those around you that’s all.

  • Anna Bromley

    To be quite honest, it’s a situation of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If the ducklings were on the left side of the road, it would be safer for HER, to park on that side of the road, because if she parked on the shoulder, she would likely be struck by a car trying to reach them, especially if she was trying to load them in her car. If it had been me, the only thing I would do differently is lay out some road flares on a line out to 200 feet behind my car so people knew something was going on, but not everyone carries flares or even the warning triangles like they should. So either way, someone was likely to get hurt, but that is a possibility any time you stop to help an animal. There was a boy here that died from trying to save his dog after it was hit. I personally don’t like how they say “a reasonable person would not have stopped for the ducklings”. I’m sorry, but I am perfectly reasonable, but I also have a heart. If the highway looks like no one is coming/going in the next few minutes, and I feel that I can safely get out to help an animal cross, or get it into my car and to a vet, I will pull over and help. I follow the laws and the speed limit to the best of my ability, and I expect everyone else to also. I would never expect someone to be riding down the highway at 7 in the morning at 120k/h which is the equivalent of 80mph on a motorcycle. I DEFINITELY would not expect them to NOT see my car and go around, especially if I had my hazard lights on like this lady did. I don’t think she should have to serve more than a few months for this, because the other person was not paying attention and driving recklessly. Yes, she could have done things differently, like parked on the shoulder, or laid out flares, but what’s done is done, and not all of it was her fault.

    • Canuck Eh

      It was 7:30 in the evening, not 7 in the morning. PLEASE stop talking! and 120km/h is 75mph, not 80. The section of highway they were travelling on had no shoulder in the passing lane, it was separated by a concrete divider, making a decision to STOP and PARK in the passing lane a ridiculously STUPID thing to do, she should have just kept on driving, cute baby ducklings or no. By blocking the passing lane with her car, with a median on the left, and a busy lane of traffic on the right, no driver would have a chance to avoid, so she was asking for a disaster to happen, and guess what, that’s exactly what happened. SHE caused the deaths of two people with the decision she made. SHE knew it was a dangerous decision when she made it. SHE bears the responsibility for her decision, that’s why she was found guilty of two counts of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing death. Just. Stop. Talking.

  • C. Chan

    what if she wasn’t saving the ducklings, what if her car broke down, what if a tree had fallen blocking his way. I think the judges stopped using their intelligence. The motorcyclist was responsible for this actions. She took all caution, while he should had been more responsive when driving.

  • Lisa

    This story is sad all the way around. Stopping to save baby ducks is something I probably would have done. It is very tragic that two people died, but this was a terrible accident and I just can’t see sending a woman to prison for trying to do something good. I don’t know the details of this story, and I am certainly not blaming the victims, but this is a good example of why we need to pay close attention to the roadways when we are driving.

  • Dirte

    Watching the video and reading the comments I’ve come to this conclusion. .. it was at 7pm we don’t know where the biker had to be worn hours daughter or if they was speeding I’ve dropped a motorcycle st a standstill and the damage was equivalent to a 25mph accident so the police estimate of actual speed is just that an educated guess… she should not have stopped for some ducklings in the fast lane.

    • Dirte

      Watching the video and reading the comments I’ve come to this conclusion. .. it was at 7pm we don’t know where the biker had to be with his daughter or if they was speeding I’ve dropped a motorcycle at a standstill and the damage was equivalent to a 25mph accident so the police estimate of actual speed is just that an educated guess… she should not have stopped for some ducklings in the fast lane period. Other things we don’t know was this after a curve, was another car in the next lane. We don’t know. But wild animals tend to take care of themselves.

  • Marina

    This is crazy! Every normal person would stop if there is ANY life creature in front of you, you would press brakes, it’s a reflex. It could be kids, deer, cow, ducklings… you don’t have time to make a long term decisions. And what comes to drivers behind her, every body knows, that if the speed is big keep big distance – leave a space to stop in case of emergency! It’s a rule! If they would keep distance this wouldn’t happen. She could stop in any circumstances, and driver behind must be ready to stop too. To put her in jail for her normal reaction – it is crazy! I feel sad for people who died, but killing one more life – is crazy!

    • Kate

      “Every normal person would stop if there is ANY life creature in front of you, you would press brakes, it’s a reflex.” That’s why you should be smart and experienced enough of a driver to constantly be watching a few seconds ahead and be fully aware of whats going on on either side of you! You then carefully pump the brakes and try to stop before you hit said creature, if possible and safe for yourself and the other drivers. If a child randomly jumps in front of you (unlikely on a highway, btw, just letting you know) then you slam on the brakes, and consider how fast you were going in the first place. In such a case, I’m thinking the jury would be human enough to understand it was an unfortunate situation and no one had control of the outcome. The girl didn’t have ill intentions, no, but she was being very stupid on a highway–one of the most dangerous places to drive anyway and at 25 she should know that. The motorcyclist should have paid more attention, but then again, if she’s dumb enough to stop in the fast lane over some ducklings–on a highway!– I’m guessing she wasn’t to bright about signaling in time and pulling off to the side–still stupid as she was in the fast lane.

      SN:
      And I’m tired of al, these “what if she this, what if she that” nonsense. Fact: she stopped on a highway, in the fast lane, supposedly didn’t even have her hazards on, to help ducklings. That’s what happened. Period. Glad she had her priorities in order…the motorcyclist? I don’t know, he should have been more careful and aware that idiots like her are driving, but he was 50 and I’m guessing he was riding for years, if that was his first wreck then that says a lot. She shouldn’t get life in my opinion–she wasn’t high or drunk, or even racing. I don’t know that the motorcyclist was going above the limit either, he might have been on the speed limit AND he was in the fast lane, so it’s his right to go the speed limit. Again he should’ve been more aware of his surroundings. But they would not have collided had the girl not stopped in the fast lane over some ducks. Had he collided into a car that was parked due to understandable reasons, then I’d question him more. But now, all I know is she was being stupid and naive and he should’ve been more aware. Because idiots like her can have licenses too. Though 14+ years is much over this. Maybe a year and revoke her license. Two people died (a mother’s and wife’s life has been turned upside down over this foolish act), and whether or not he was going above the speed limit, it was still highly stupid and obviously dangerous to stop in a fast lane for the sake of…”helping duckies.” Its dumb to think this was harmless had he paid more attention (and to assume that it could have been avoided even if he was more careful, maybe he was and she stopped suddenly, in the fast…to help ducks). she very well may have stopped suddenly, I mean how long before stopping did she see them? I’m thinking she just saw them, thought, “aw, look duckies!” pulled over like an idiot in the fast lane and BOOM. She’s stupid and naive, a punishment is in order, but I wouldn’t go quite as far as they did. I don’t think she’s evil, she just wasn’t thinking. punishment should fit the crime. 14+ years is a lot for this case. Like I said, I’d understand 1 year and revoking her license. Rant over.

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