‘I feel for them every day,’ Alberta man found guilty of deadly crash

Watch above: Johnathan Pratt spoke to the media Thursday after being found guilty of numerous charges after a high speed crash in 2011. Laurel Gregory reports.

EDMONTON – A judge has found Johnathan Pratt guilty of numerous charges relating to a collision that killed three young men in 2011.

Pratt was found guilty Thursday morning of three counts of impaired operation causing death and three counts of manslaughter in connection to a Beaumont crash that claimed the lives of Bradley Arsenault, Kole Novak and Thaddeus Lake.

“It was the decision we were hoping to hear,” said Zane Novak, Kole’s father, after the ruling. “We’re very satisfied – as much as you can be in something like this. Obviously, it doesn’t bring the boys back.”

On November 26, 2011, Pratt was driving a pick-up truck that slammed into a car carrying Arsenault, Novak and Lake.

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A technical collision investigation report indicates the driver of the Dodge Ram was unbuckled at the time of the collision and the pick-up reached speeds of 199 km/h before impact.

The report found the front of the Dodge Ram struck the rear of the Grand Am’s back bumper and “continued to plow through the trunk… destroying the entire passenger compartment up to the wind-shield and dash area.”

The Co-Crown said it’s incredibly rare to see a manslaughter conviction in collision cases, which speaks to magnitude of how horrific the crash was in this case.

The Defence attempted to prove there was a chance Pratt wasn’t the driver. However, the judge decided the idea was simply speculation in what he called an “evidentiary vaccuum.”

“We’re familiar with the area, we understand the landscape there, the conditions that night,” said Novak. “It was an impossibility that anyone else could have been associated with that accident or that they could have walked away from that accident.”

“It was just really a ghost story. We never believed that it could be proved that there was someone else there.”

The judge told the Wetaskiwin courtroom Thursday that the Crown had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Pratt was the driver of the pick-up.

Family and friends of the victims cried and hugged in the courtroom after Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Belzil read his decision, while Pratt stared straight ahead.

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“I’m glad that it actually now went through to the end of the trial and that it was proven in front of everyone’s eyes that this man is absolutely guilty of manslaughter, of killing Kole Novak and Bradley Arsenault and Thaddeus Lake,” said Kole’s father.

Three counts of having a blood alcohol level over .08 were conditionally stayed because they overlapped with the other charges. However, Pratt was found guilty of six of the nine charges.

Pratt was approached by media following the decision and asked if he wanted to say anything to the victims’ families.

“There’s not a  single day that goes by where I don’t feel their pain,” he said.

“There’s nothing I could do that would ever change anything. It’s  the most terrible thing that could ever happen for anyone. I would never wish this on anyone: myself, others.”

Pratt said he has reached out to the families, and that what was said was between him and them.

“But still,  it doesn’t change anything, it never will.”

He said the proceedings have also been very difficult for him and his family.

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“It affects every aspect of my life, everything. From when I go to hug my mother or a friend, I think of the boys who aren’t able to do that to theirs.  Just having a meal with friends, family.”

The Crown hinted that he may be asking for a sentence of between eight and ten years.

“It doesn’t change anything,” responded Pratt, “the men are still dead.”

Pratt is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 1.

Novak would like to see the sentences served consecutively, rather than concurrently, but says that likely won’t happen.

“Three boys died and I think that there should be a sentence of like 10 years per boy,” he said. “A penalty should be paid for each life lost.”

Regardless of the sentencing, the families are ready to move past the tragedy.

“It’s nice to get all this behind us and start down a path to something better,” said Novak.

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