Pembroke — The man accused of causing the death of Jordana Yakabuskie, a 29-year-old resident of Petawawa, appeared in the Superior Court of Justice for the second straight week and listened to testimony from the attending physician who at first tried to revive her, and later made the official declaration of her death shortly before midnight on February 19, 2022.
Cole Allard, who is represented by Pembroke attorney Mark Huckabone, maintained his plea of “not guilty” to one count of dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death. The 27-year-old Petawawa resident was also charged with one count of manslaughter shortly after being taken into custody on February 20, but it was later dropped before his trial began.
The court heard testimony given by Dr. Tracy Wong, a physician who was on duty when Ms. Yakabuskie arrived at the Renfrew Victoria Hospital (RVH) ER shortly before 10 p.m. She was the first witness to appear this past Monday when Justice Kevin Phillips began proceedings.
With over 75 people watching the proceedings either in person or streaming the trial online, Assistant/Crown Attorney Terri James opened her line of questioning by asking Dr. Wong to recount the events of the evening, especially any interaction she had with the accused while she attended to Ms. Yakabuskie.
Dr. Wong explained to the court how the RVH ER handles unknown trauma situations during the evening shift, and in particular how the staff responded to the incident at 22:45 that night.
“The nurses went out through the double-doors of our trauma wing and went outside to see exactly what was happening because sometimes people are yelling for help when there is no actual emergency,” she said. “I remain seated near the double-doors that are automatically locked and the nurses unlock the door to get in and when I saw them come rushing through those doors I knew we had an immediate trauma situation in our ER.”
She told the court there are two trauma teams made up of RNs and RPNs trained for high stress procedures, but when she and some of the other nurses saw Mr. Allard rush through the double-doors carrying Ms. Yakabuskie with obvious signs of severe head trauma, they were a little taken aback at the state of her injuries.
“As Mr. Allard placed her on a gurney, all of us suited up. My first role is to assess her airways and check on her breathing and circulation,” she testified. “The nurses were asking Mr. Allard what was the situation that brought them in so that we have some clarity of what we are anticipating.”
She said the team was gathered around the table and while the nurses were asking Mr. Allard for information, she and another team member were hooking the victim up to a heart monitor, checking her blood pressure and listening for a heartbeat so they had some control so they could begin whatever medical intervention was required.
“Mr. Allard was in the trauma area and I had trouble hearing what the nurses were asking and his responses but I was busy doing my job and did not hear any details first-hand,” she said. “But afterwards I heard the details of what happened. But with all the activity I cannot say whether I heard it during the conversations between nurses and Mr. Allard or if I heard it afterwards from the nurses.”
She said the version told to her was that they were just outside of town and they began to argue while he was driving from Ottawa to Petawawa. The doctor said she was told that Mr. Allard said when they fought that intensely while the car was moving, he would pull the car over and park.
“He said that Ms. Yakabuskie would exit the vehicle and walk around and pace in order to calm down and de-escalate the situation,” Dr. Wong told the court. “She was asking him to stop the car but he said he could not do it right away due to highway traffic. So he started to slow down but she jumped out before the car stopped.”
Ms. James asked if she could determine the cause of the injuries by examining her. She also asked how the doctor could determine if she was ejected from the car and would she be able to estimate the speed of the car.
“No, it is hard to say what injuries would occur if ejected from the car and speed is a factor,” the doctor testified. “If the car is travelling five km/hr, then the injuries would not be as severe as falling out of a car at 100 km/hr. I never heard any specific estimate of the speed and I think I may have heard something like 60 km/hr., but I am not certain.”
Dr. Wong said she never had an opportunity to speak one-on-one with Mr. Allard prior to her death due to the acuity of the situation. The first time she spoke with him was in regard to having to perform a type of tracheotomy because they could not stabilize Ms. Yakabuskie’s airways. She testified the patient did stabilize for a very short time and she went to update Mr. Allard who was in a private area.
“He was speaking to someone on the phone and I updated him to let him know that she was stabilized for now and our goal was to transfer her to the Ottawa Trauma Centre,” she said. “I don’t recall him asking any questions, but he appeared to be very upset and crying. Overall, he was upset and about to cry when I gave him the news and it was very bad and he understood what was going on.”
She said she spent about three minutes with him in Room B and returned to the trauma unit and upon her return Ms. Yakabuskie’s condition deteriorated rapidly. She testified Ms. Yakabuskie died and she made the declaration at approximately 22:00. She noted her declaration resulted in “Trauma Ends”, which means all direct attempts to revive her have been exhausted and she is declared deceased.
“I went back to Mr. Allard to inform him of her death and he appeared the same as our first conversation,” she said. “He became more upset and he followed me out of the room so he could see her. Normally we would clean up the body and also clean up the room before we would allow any family inside.
“But because he was following me out of the room, I decided to allow him to see her because he was becoming distraught and would only make things worse. I saw him go to the stretcher and he hugged her and told her that he loved her. The nurses were there with him to offer any support, but I didn’t have any more contact with him after he left the trauma room. I believe he went back to the private room where we spoke.”
She said the nurses directed him back into the private room so he could be alone and that was a normal procedure in a time of crisis like this.
During the afternoon session, Stephen Albers, representing the Crown Attorney’s Office, called Ontario Provincial Police Constable Jeff Hewitt to the stand.
Const. Hewitt has been posted at the Renfrew Detachment for a number of years and during that time he has taken several courses related to technical reconstructions of vehicular collisions. He is often called upon for his expertise throughout Ontario and is one of the OPP’s leading reconstructionists and investigates vehicular collisions resulting in one or more fatalities.
Court will be in session until Thursday of this week and resume on September 25 until September 28. Full coverage will be available in the next edition of the Leader.