Dustin Zinter testifies in his own defence at fatal hit-and-run trial

By Ian Holmes
July 12, 2018 - 6:24pm Updated: July 12, 2018 - 8:26pm

Dustin Zinter maintains he wasn't impaired or on his phone prior to a fatal crash in Cedar. He also told Court he was in his own lane at the time.Ian Holmes/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — The man accused in a fatal hit-and-run in Cedar testified he was not impaired, was not on his cell phone and was in his own lane when the crash occurred.

Dustin Dennis Zinter, 41, explained his version of events on Nov. 10, 2015 on Yellow Point Rd., where Heidi Barbara Plato, 51, of Ladysmith was killed after two pickups collided.

Zinter said it was raining the night of the crash when he went out to buy cigarettes. He testified he was going north on Yellow Point Rd. when he was distracted by the single-working headlamp on Plato's truck.

“I was coming around the s-curve and it was like the brightest f*cking headlight comes out of nowhere and I screamed blue bloody murder.”

Zinter said he believed Plato lost control of her truck, telling court he's 98 per cent positive he was hit by Plato. Prior to formally testifying, Zinter questioned the condition of various components of Plato's truck.

“Oh yeah, I guarantee I was in my lane, there's no doubt about it.”

Earlier in the trial, the Crown leaned on an RCMP reconstruction report which theorized Zinter's vehicle crossed the centre line and hit Plato's truck.

There were no witnesses to the crash.

Zinter testified the force of the collision caused him to hit his head on his windshield and he was left disoriented. He said it wasn't fair to talk about what happened following the crash since he had a head injury and fragmented memory. He testified he drank what he believed to be whiskey after the crash away from the scene.

Zinter said testimony from a paramedic and RCMP officer about him hiding on property off the side of Cedar Rd. after the crash is “completely false.”

After allegedly being found, Zinter was arrested and told another person involved in the crash had died.

“I wish I would have tried to help if I would have known somebody was hurt,” Zinter said.

He then said his glasses were lost in the crash and he couldn't see anything.

Zinter said he was not on his cell phone at the time because there's no service in the area and he wasn't speeding.

He pleaded not guilty to dangerous driving causing death, leaving the scene of an accident and failing to provide a breath sample.

His trial, being heard by the Honourable Justice Robin Baird, is expected to conclude Friday.

Crown prosecutor Nick Barber said he will cross-examine Zinter at that time.

The Crown earlier called 14 witnesses over the course of four days, including testimony from a firefighter who stated Zinter smelled of alcohol and ran from the scene.

Zinter's trial was slated to wrap up three weeks ago, but was derailed after he fired lawyer Stephen Taylor once the Crown concluded its case.

Zinter then assured court a Burnaby based lawyer would represent him, but the lawyer later informed court Zinter did not have the money needed to pay him.

Three days later Zinter missed the resumption of his trial, was arrested and has been in custody ever since after his bail privileges were revoked.

Adding to the bizarre complexities of the trial was yet another lawyer who briefly represented Zinter on Thursday prior to providing his own testimony. Victoria based lawyer Bill Helfin unsuccessfully lobbied for an adjournment to secure a report to combat the RCMP crash reconstruction analysis.

Helfin stated Zinter did not have the funds to represent him, clearing the way for Zinter to represent himself.

 

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