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December 10, 2004

Man guilty in tractor crash

From: London Free Press, Canada - Dec 10, 2004

David Pickell was banned from driving for life after his latest impaired conviction.

JANE SIMS, Free Press Justice Reporter

David Pickell has two more driving convictions to add to his huge criminal record -- and two more years in prison -- after a judge found him guilty yesterday for his part in a bizarre tractor crash. Superior Court Justice Lynne Leitch said Pickell, 42, was responsible for starting the 1943 International Farmall tractor, putting it in gear and trying to apply the brakes when the tractor hit a concrete barrier in Thames Centre on Aug. 25, 2001.

Pickell was given three years probation and ordered not to consume alcohol.

He was also banned from driving for life.

Pickell, who has never had a driver's licence, had pinned the blame on his common-law spouse, Tracy Thompson, 32, who died two years ago.

Pickell and Thompson, who was deaf, mute and mentally challenged, were on their way to their Kintore home from a party near Nilestown on the tractor in the dark, with Pickell in the seat and Thompson sitting between his legs.

They ignored construction signs indicating Westchester Bourne was closed.

"It's nothing short of miraculous that no one, either (Pickell or Thompson) or others was injured," Leitch said.

Pickell still faces charges in the Superior Court of Justice in Parry Sound stemming from an investigation into Thompson's death.

Burk's Falls OPP Const. Kristina Truax said in an interview that Thompson died June 20, 2002 after she was rushed into Kearney, in northern Ontario, by Pickell, who owns bush property near there.

She was hurt after a 1943 International tractor rolled over. Paramedics found no vital signs by the time they were called in.

Thompson died of a crushed chest with internal bleeding.

In the investigation which followed, Pickell was charged with three counts of driving while prohibited and one count of obstruction of justice.

At yesterday's hearing, Pickell's sentencing went ahead, even after he sought an adjournment to help the mother of his child find a new place to live after an eviction.

But he was late for court once this week, Leitch noted, and had prior convictions for not complying with court orders.

His record back to 1979 includes driving offences: five impaired driving convictions, four convictions for driving while disqualified, three for criminal negligence, one for failing to remain at an accident and one for refusing to provide a breath sample.

His last sentence in 2000 was for 12 months, plus a three-year driving ban.

Pickell's lawyer, Robert Sheppard, asked for 12 to 15 months of jail time. He argued the situation was different than previous infractions because Pickell believed he was complying with his driving ban.

Sheppard said Pickell had been ill-advised in the past to believe a ban did not prohibit him from driving a tractor. He argued probation and a no-alcohol order might not be effective for a man of Pickell's age with his extensive record.

Assistant Crown attorney Peter Rollings noted Pickell's blood-alcohol level in the latest incident was more than twice the legal limit.

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