Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Deaths

There's often something a bit weird about deaths that happen right at Christmas, just before, or just after.

In Newmarket, Ontario, where I live, a lady was driving out of the parking lot at the hospital. To validate her parking ticket, she opened her car door, with the car still in Drive. Somehow her foot came off the brake. She was found with her head trapped between the door and the car, and she has since died. The way things work, the hospital will no doubt have to change their procedures somehow "to make sure this doesn't happen again." Something so unbelievably stupid and unlikely?

In Ottawa, the 24-year-old son of Brian Tobin, former Premier of Newfoundland, killed his life-long friend, also 24, by running over him in a parking garage. Charged with impaired driving causing death, dangerous causing death, and driving over the limit causing death. At first I thought they must have been playing some stupid game: we'll take turns lying down on the concrete while the other one drives, and see if you can steer around while getting fairly close. Instead it seems that the victim fell out of the pick-up--either out of the cab, or even more clever, out of the box. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Kind of a Newfie joke. Neighbours say this parking garage was a hangout for drinking and drugging. Congratulations, you've really made something of your lives.

UPDATE Dec. 27: On the Tobin case, one of Canada's best criminal lawyers is now clearly in charge of spinning to the media. My favourite:

The young men spent the evening of Dec. 23 in bars near Ottawa’s trendy ByWard Market neighbourhood. Early the next morning, just before 3 a.m., the two men and at least one other person returned to their rented pickup truck in a nearby parkade. They planned to have a drink of whisky at the truck before taking a cab home, two sources told CTV and The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Zolpis got out of the vehicle, though it’s unclear why. Soon after, Mr. Tobin backed the truck up to park it, sources said. He got out to find Mr. Zolpis trapped underneath. Four days after writing his last exam, the 24-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.

This sounds a lot better than: they were driving in circles just for a laugh--it's not clear why; or they were using each other as human pylons, it's not clear why. The lawyer even covers the earlier coverage: "His lawyer hopes the attention the case is expected to receive won’t derail justice for Mr. Tobin. For instance, he said, it was widely and incorrectly reported his client was stunt driving – driving the truck in circles – on the top level of the parkade when Mr. Zolpis died."

It all reminds me of the Michael Bryant episode. Lots of people sympathized with Bryant. Granted he killed a cyclist while driving his car aggressively, but there had been considerable provocation, and in a convertible with the roof down, Bryant may have felt that both he and his wife were in danger. It certainly would have been interesting to hear details at trial, but it became pretty clear the establishment didn't want a trial.

On Christmas morning, we found a dead mouse in one of our traps--actually kind of caught by two traps close together. For all we know, he had been taught about Santa and all that. The big day arrives, and no Santa--just a big machine crushing him. I'm a big believer in peanut butter as bait, and in keeping two traps close together. The design we have is very much like this.

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