Recalling the frantic search for her husband with a flashlight in the dark in Fanny Bay, the wife of fatally injured cyclist Paul Bally took the stand Monday morning in Courtenay provincial court as part of an eight-day trial.
Bowser resident Timothy David Prad, 57, pleaded not guilty to failure to stop at an accident causing bodily harm, and dangerous driving causing death. He sat stoically in the prisoner’s box and listened to the details surrounding the Dec. 15, 2014 incident in which Bally, 48, an avid cyclist, was struck by a southbound vehicle on Highway 19A near Curran Road.
He was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox where he was pronounced dead.
Two days after his death, Bally’s wife, Evelyn, made an emotional public plea, asking for the driver to come forward. Prad was taken into custody and charged after police acted on a tip through CrimeStoppers a few days later.
Evelyn described to court her husband’s dedication to cycling, and that he would consistently ride three times a week, about an hour-and-a-half each ride, for the past 12 years.
He would also regularly ride his bike from Lake Trail Middle School in Courtenay, where he was a teacher.
The night of the incident she said he wore a specially-designed biking coat – green/yellow in colour – with reflective stripes in various places, had a headlamp on his helmet and a red solid light on the back of his seat.
She told Crown attorney John Boccabella when she returned to her Fanny Bay home from dance class around 10 p.m. that evening, she initially thought Bally had a flat tire as he still hadn’t retuned home.
She jumped into her car and drove south to Bowser in hopes of locating him fixing his tire on the side of the road. She turned her car northbound to Buckley Bay, and admitted “then I was worried. I drove slower on the way back and looked for skid marks.”
Following her initial search, Evelyn made her way to her home where her sister Amanda – who was visiting at the time – retuned to their car and continued the search.
With a flashlight in hand hanging out the passenger-side window, Evelyn said she spotted her husband’s red light and then his jacket in the ditch.
“His face was in mud and water. I rolled him over … the helmet was still hooked on his chin but split in two and on the ground,” she told court.
Prad’s friend Cindy Perry – whom he had previously dated – told court she had borrowed Prad’s truck the day before the incident. She told court “the direction and the brightness (of the headlights) weren’t right” on Prad’s truck, but added she felt it was safe to drive. She later noted a yellow folded chip bag held the lens of one headlight in place, damage which was caused by Prad previously hitting a deer.
She explained after returning the truck to Prad’s residence, he purchased beer and drank one before driving Perry home to Fanny Bay.
She told Boccabella while she had previously witnessed Prad impaired, she testified he was not impaired at the time he drove her home.
On the “misty, rainy” drive back to her residence, Perry spotted a cyclist from a light in the distance, and recognized “the yellow reflective jacket and helmet” of Bally – a man she had not personally met but knew from her neighbourhood.
“I looked on the passenger side mirror (when he passed) and could not see a (red) light (behind). I said to myself, ‘why are you on the highway in the dark?’ ”
When asked by Boccabella about Prad’s driving, Perry described it as “a bit on the shoulder” and that he had signalled to turn onto the wrong road, despite having been to her home many times. Pressed about his emotional state, Perry noted he “was quiet and backed out and took off (from my driveway) faster than normal.”
Boccabella presented Perry with an extraction report which displayed an extensive text message conversation between herself and Prad in the hours prior to the incident, and the days following.
In the messages, Prad told Perry he hit a deer on the way home after dropping her off, on the same side as his previous accident with a deer.
She questioned him the next day via texts, following news reports of the road closure and accident, and eventually called the RCMP to give a statement.
The trial is set to continue for the rest of the week.