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Carol Berner admitted she drank before fatal crash

SURREY – Carol Berner admitted shortly after the crash that she drank alcohol on the day she drove her car into little Alexa Middelaer and her aunt, a paramedic testified Wednesday.

Alexa, 4, and aunt Daphne Johanson were feeding a horse on 64th Street in Delta on May 17, 2008, when they were hit by a car. Alexa was killed and Johanson suffered very serious injuries.

Berner is on trial in Surrey Provincial Court charged with several counts of impaired driving and dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm.

She has pleaded not guilty, although a written admission read in court states that Berner was driving the car involved in the crash.

Paramedic Richard Williston, who was in the first ambulance to arrive at the scene, told Surrey Provincial Court Berner was not the first person he dealt with at the crash site.

He and his partner first assessed which patients needed care, organized air and ground ambulances and dealt with the most seriously injured, he said.

After Alexa and Johanson had been taken away in helicopters, his attention was directed to Berner, who was seated in the back of a police car, he testified.

He introduced himself and suggested going to the ambulance for further assessment. Williston said he noticed Berner had a seat-belt mark on her left shoulder and said she complained of pain in that area.

He testified that he did not notice an odour of alcohol on Berner’s breath, and that she walked to the ambulance unassisted.

Williston suggested after examining Berner that she go to the hospital. When she agreed, the ambulance took her there.

On the way, Williston said, he asked her standard questions – whether she was on any medication, had taken any recreational drugs or alcohol and about her medical history.

She denied taking any medication but did say she’d had alcohol that day, Williston testified.

Williston will be cross-examined Wednesday afternoon.

Williston’s partner, Richard McClellan, testified earlier Wednesday that he had brief interactions with Berner while triaging patients and had not smelled alcohol when talking to her. He said she responded “normally” to his questions.

When Berner walked from where she was seated on the curb to the police car, McClellan said, he “did not see any difficulty with her walking.”

Outside court, Berner’s lawyers David and Jason Tarnow suggested the public and media pay close attention to the rest of the paramedic’s evidence after the lunch break – and to wait for other testimony before passing judgment.

The trial continues.

jensaltman@theprovince.com

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