Driver in Racette crash had seizures, says agreed statement
Richard Benson is awaiting a scheduled Nov. 14 sentencing after pleading guilty to three charges stemming from the Oct. 25, 2012 crash at Racette School that took the life of one Grade 6 student, and critically injured two other students.
According to an agreed statement of facts from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Richard Edward Benson “suffered a seizure while driving,” and as a result he crashed into a lower-level classroom in the Racette 2 building on Oct. 25, 2012, pinning three Grade 6 students under the van he was driving.
The five-page agreed statement of facts “are alleged by the Crown and admitted to by the accused . . . in support of his guilty plea to counts 1, 2, and 3.” Benson pleaded guilty on Sept. 4 to criminal negligence causing death to Megan Wolitski, and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm to the two other students seriously injured in the crash.
The statement outlines Benson’s history of seizures, dating back to July of 2002 when he received a head injury. As a result of the injury, “he was subject to permanent seizures,” and was prescribed medication to help control the seizures.
The statement also notes that on different occasions Benson applied for an operator’s licence and “falsified a legal document by declaring that he had no physical or health factors that may affect one’s ability to operate a motor vehicle,” says the statement.
Over the year, Benson had a number of other reported seizures where he was brought into different hospitals for treatment and was prescribed anti-seizure medication that he often did not take regularly, according to the statement.
At one time, it was noted that he filled a prescription given to him in June of 2012, two months after receiving the prescription from the doctor.
In March of 2006, Benson applied for AISH benefits, and on the application declared “he suffered from moderate to severe, permanent seizures as a result of a brain injury,” says the statement.
Despite being prescribed anti-seizure medication, a blood test on the day of the Oct. 25 incident revealed that Benson had “less than half of the lowest level in patients receiving chronic phenytoin therapy” in his blood.
“On October 21, 2012, Richard Benson suffered a seizure at home. He did not seek medical treatment. As a result of the frequency and severity of Richard’s seizures, his family expressed their concern to him about his ability to drive,” says the statement.
Then, on Oct. 25, after dropping off his children at two separate schools in St. Paul, he proceeded to the post office. He then entered a back alley and traveled west down the alley.
The statement adds, “Richard Benson suffered a seizure while driving. As a result, Richard Benson’s vehicle reached speeds of up to 80 kms per hour and crossed over five streets. Richard Benson almost caused two motor vehicle accidents at two of these intersections prior to crashing into the Racette School.”
There were about 13 students and one teacher in the Grade 6 classroom that Benson’s mini van crashed into.
The statement further mentions that Wolitski died as a result of her injuries, another student sustained “lifelong debilitating injuries . . . and is not suspected to recover and have a regular life.” And a third student sustained a traumatic brain injury and is undergoing therapy for emotional issues. She also has speech and eye co-ordination issues.
The agreed statement was signed by Benson, the defence counsel and the Crown counsel.
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