Truck driver relieved after acquittal in Hwy. 13 blizzard fiasco
Marisa Ramnanan, CTV Montreal
Published Wednesday, July 17, 2019 1:13PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 19, 2019 8:04AM EDT
The truck driver who was on trial for his role in the snowstorm that saw hundreds stranded on Highway 13 has been acquitted.
Palwinder Singh Johal was accused of putting the safety of other motorists in danger during the March 2017 snowstorm. Hundreds of people were trapped on the highway in Montreal during that storm and spent the night in their cars.
Johal was charged with mischief and public nuisance after his truck got stuck on the highway during the early part of the storm.
The Sureté de Quebec said that Johal refused to co-operate with a tow truck driver when his vehicle blocked Highway 13 South.
During the trial towing company owner Mike Burstall said the tow truck arrived at 8:00 p.m., but that the driver of the 18-wheeler refused to let the tow truck driver touch his vehicle.
The towing company asked for police assistance, and the SQ officers arrived at 1:00 a.m. to order the removal of the vehicle.
In court Johal described a very different version of events.
He said his truck got stuck in the snow at 8:00 p.m. on the night of the snowstorm, and that police on the scene ordered him to move, but he could not.
Johal said it was more than six hours later, at 2:30 a.m., when a tow-truck arrived.
Johal's lawyer maintained his client wanted the tow and had the bill to show he paid $240 plus tax to be towed 200 metres.
Judge Suzanne Bousquet said there were several mistakes and contradictions in the key witnesses' testimony for the prosecution, the driver for the towing company.
Bousquet pointed out that Burstall testified that "some of the truck drivers" had refused towing, but wasn't clear on which ones.
In his testimony Burstall blamed the driver of a black truck, but Johal's vehicle was white.
The Crown also said that Johal was at the front of the line blocking other vehicles from moving, but surveillance camera footage showed there were other vehicles in front of his.
With the acquittal, Johal will be sharing the $2 million in compensation people who were stuck on Highway 13 that night will receive from the province. They were awarded the cash as part of a class action suit that was settled last month and totals from $300 to $1,000 per person.
Johal's lawyer told CTV Montreal Wednesday that the truck driver is relieved by the judge's decision and said the trial had taken a toll.
With a file from Annie DeMelt