A coroner's jury, sitting under Dr. C.W. Elmore of Beamsville, found "evidence of neglect on the part of the driver" whose automobile hit Edward Haworth as he was walking along the Queen Elizabeth Way last Christmas day. The driver of the car was William Staples of St. Catharines.
The five-man jury headed by Fred Jewson listened to three witnesses, none of whom actually saw the impact, and to Staples and his wife. E.H. Lancaster, K.C., of St. Catharines, represented the crown. Staples was unrepresented.
The first witness called was E. Bruce Murdoch, who identified three pictures which he had taken at the instigation of A.E. Reilly, the traffic officer who investigated the tragedy. The photos showed the death car and its relative position to the body. One close up of the car showed the right front fender, where apparently the vehicle had struck the deceased man.
Dr. J.H. MacMillan recalled having been called to the scene of the accident, and gave as his opinion that death had resulted from a fracture of the first and second cervices. Other injuries which had been sustained were described as fractured tibia and femur, as well as abrasions of the forehead and a lacerated right fore-finger.
Constable Reilly declared that he came upon the accident during his regular patrol of the Queen Elizabeth Way within minutes after it had occurred.
"I found a man lying on the north shoulder of the west-bound traffic lane, and west of that I saw a car pulled up. I was told that the car struck a man as he was walking along the highway. When I came to the remains, life was extinct. I then phoned for the coroner and a photographer," he testified.
Constable Reilly stated that the body was lying just north of the west bound traffic lane, and that the left foot was but three feet from the travelled portion of the highway. The car, according to measurements which he took at that time, was two inches less that 209 feet west of the body, facing northwest, and on the shoulder. Behind it was a heavy mark on the crushed stone 11 feet long, 8 inches wide and about one and a half inches deep. When the crown attorney suggested that this mark might have been caused by brakes being applied, witness agreed. The car appeared to be in good condition, though witness said that he had made no examination of its mechanical condition.
Witness also testified that in his opinion the accused man was sober.
Staples, in giving his own evidence, told the coroner that he was driving west on the QEW about 2 o'clock in the afternoon on the day of the accident. He estimated that his speed was about 45 miles per hour, and in answer to Mr. Lancaster he stated that he had been driving about 20 years. On the day in question he was travelling between St. Catharines and Hamilton.
Witness than stated that the first time he noticed the deceased man was when he was about 15 feet from him, and was putting one foot on the pavement. Witnesses declared that the day was sunny, and that visibility was good. He estimated 15 feet for his evidence as the distance from where he was standing to a window in the court room.
"I didn't see him until he was right up on top of me," witness said. "Or you were on top of him," retorted Mr. Lancaster. "Did he hit you or you hit him? Do you suggest that he might have staggered or fallen or jumped toward your car?"
"He seemed to come forward to my car," witness replied.
"Don't you think you should have seem him some distance back? At a speed of 45 miles per hour, do you know what distance it requires to stop a car? You stopped at 208 feet," said Mr. Lancaster.
As witness started to again tell how the figure suddenly appeared in front of him, the crown cut in:
"I am not satisfied, and I am sure the jury will not be satisfied with the general statements. A man has been killed. I have tried to give you all the opportunity I can for you to tell how, travelling at 45 miles her hour, you suddenly saw a man just 15 feet in front of you."
"That's all there is to it."
"Then," said Mr. Lancaster, "I suggest to you that you had gone about 45 feet before you started to blow your horn. Do you say you were that far (indicating distance between witness and a window) before you saw him and blew your horn?'
"Well, witness went on, "I can't say. I cannot judge distances. I haven't any learning, and can't read or write."
"I'm afraid that it isn't any excuse to kill people on the highway because you haven't any learning," replied the crown. "Why did you not stop before you had travelled nearly 210 feet?"
"There were cars coming behind me and I had to pull out away from them," was the answer.
The verdict of the jury, after it retired to consider it, was: The Edward Howarth met his death about 2 p.m. daylight saving time on December 25 on the QEW in North Grimsby Township as a result of injuries received when struck by a motor car operated by William Staples of St. Catharines, and we find evidence of neglect on the part of the driver."