MONTREAL – A Canadian woman who parked her car on a highway to help a group of ducklings on the side of the road was found guilty Friday of causing the deaths of a motorcyclist and his passenger daughter who slammed into her car.
Emma Czornobaj was convicted by a jury on two counts of criminal negligence causing death, a charge that carries a maximum life sentence, and two counts of dangerous driving causing death, which comes with a maximum of 14 years in jail.
The 25-year-old was charged in the deaths of Andre Roy, 50, and his daughter Jessie, 16.
She wiped away tears when the verdict was delivered to a packed courtroom in Montreal. Quebec Superior Court Justice Eliane Perreault said the 12-member jury voted unanimously.
Czornobaj was released until her pre-sentence hearing on Aug. 8.
Roy's motorcycle slammed into Czornobaj's car, which was stopped in the left lane of a provincial highway south of Montreal in 2010.
Czornobaj, a self-professed animal lover, told the court that she did not see the ducklings' mother anywhere and planned to capture them and take them home.
Defense lawyer Marc Labelle said his client was stunned by the jury's decision.
"The fact that she was involved in the accident in the first place was a hard experience for her," he said. "The fact that she had to go through a trial with a lot of publicity was tough and to be confirmed by 12 citizens, the jury, that the conduct was criminal is a hard blow."
Pauline Volikakis, whose husband and daughter were killed in the collision, briefly fought back tears when she left the courtroom.
"I don't wish misfortune on anyone," Volikakis said. "It's time that we go on. This will not bring (back) my loved ones."
Prosecutor Annie-Claude Chasse had a message for motorists.
"What we hope is that a clear message is sent to society that we do not stop on the highway for animals. It's not worth it."