There isn’t a doubt that methamphetamine was found in Nathan Hathaway’s blood sample.
But what can’t be determined scientifically is if the drug impaired his driving when he slammed head-on into a pickup truck carrying a St. Thomas family two years ago.
All Daryl Mayers, a toxicologist with the Centre for Forensic Sciences who tested the sample, could say is that the drug level would be “capable of causing issues that would be impairing a person’s ability to drive.”
Mayers testified at Hathaway’s trial Thursday, the last witness for the Crown, to interpret his findings from a sample of blood serum taken at the hospital following the crash near the Mustang Drive-in movie theatre on July 24, 2016,
And his testimony – and the limitations of it – demonstrated how proving drug impairment cases aren’t as cut-and-dry as in cases of alcohol impairment while driving.
Hathaway, 31, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and four counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm after Kevin and Victoria Williams and their daughter Olivia, plus a child in Hathaway’s SUV were badly injured in the crash.
The Williams family were on their way home from the movies at the time of the crash. Three other children were in the rear seat of the extended cab pickup truck when it rolled in the ditch.
Mayers said that scientifically the law surrounding drugs and driving is about where it was 75 years ago with alcohol.
There aren’t clear standards and measures, like the 80 millligrams in 100 millitres of blood in alcohol impairment cases.
What Mayers could do is analyze the blood sample and give an opinion.
One of the first challenges was that Hathaway’s blood sample was small. Mayers said it was tested for 60 types of drugs and there was only one finding of relevance.
The blood had 0.56 milligrams of methamphetamine in one litre of serum, and 0.067 milligrams of amphetamine, a metabolite of meth, in one litre of serum.
The drug, he said, can be ingested in various ways, but smoking, injecting or snorting it will lead to the quickest effects. It has an active stimulant phase, then a crash phase.
The effects vary from euphoria to agitation , depression, delusions, an increased heart rate and risk-taking behaviour.
“The symptoms vary remarkably,” Mayers said and there is no way to predict. Also tolerance is a factor and can cause a diminished response to the drug.
The amount of methamphetamine in Hathaway’s sample was more than the would be expected in a therapeutic level, he said.
In cross examination by the defence, Mayers reiterated that there are “too many variables to predict or evaluate affects of the drug on a particular individual.”
There was more evidence Thursday describing Hathaway’s behaviour at the crash scene.
Diane Ouderkirk and her daughter, Angel Page, both testified what they saw as they left the drive-in behind the Williams’ pickup truck.
They had been at the movies with Page’s two children. Ouderkirk testified she was driving when “all of a sudden” she saw the truck’s brake lights come on, swerve on the gravel, then rolled off the road onto its roof. Another vehicle was heading right at her and spun.
“I heard the impact. It was was very loud,” she said.
Ouderkirk was able to pull over. Page called 911, then handed the phone to her mother and raced toward the pickup truck where they could hear the children screaming. .
Ouderkirk said she noticed the other vehicle had the driver’s door opened and the airbags had deployed. A woman was out of the vehicle and “carrying on about being seriously injured.”
The woman did “a swan dive” into the ditch and was yelling she was going to die.
A man, identified by Page at Hathaway, was yelling back, “using a lot of foul language”, telling the woman to “smarten up”, “act normal” and “get yourself under control.”
“Both seemed drunk,” Ouderkirk said. The man was slurring his words and “she seemed not quite with it.”
He didn’t seem to be badly injured, Ouderkirk said. He was angry.
“I know at the time my assumption was they were both drunk,” she said, although in cross-examination it was pointed out she never told the police that in her statements.
She said she also saw him wandering around making statements like, “What the heck is going on here” and “I don’t know what is going on here.”
At no time did the man or woman go to help the people in the pickup truck, Ouderkirk said. “All they did was argue and bicker with each other.”
Page described getting the children out of the truck, including Olivia, who had been sitting between her parents in the front seat and was badly injured.
She also saw Hathaway and the woman arguing. At first she thought Hathaway was in shock, but as she watched him more she was convinced otherwise.
He was walking in circles, she said, and was “freaking out.”
Page said she didn’t offer assistance to Hathaway and the woman. “I went in the direction where I thought help was needed the most and helped with that situation,” she said.
The trial continues Monday.
Source: London Free Press