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Vehicles were 'bumper to bumper' as they zoomed past: witnesses

Steven Ryan Mercer (left) speaks to his lawyer, Randy Piercey, during a break in proceedings in Mercer's trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's Wednesday.
Steven Ryan Mercer (left) speaks to his lawyer, Randy Piercey, during a break in proceedings in Mercer's trial at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's Wednesday. - Rosie Mullaley

Closing arguments set for Thursday afternoon in street racing causing death trial

Mark Peach was half asleep in the passenger's seat when the sound of his friend's voice alarmed him.

"I was dozing in and out when I heard Adam say, 'Look at this!'" Peach said, referring to his friend, who was driving them home on the Route 73 highway along the New Harbour Barrens after their shift at the Long Harbour nickel facility on July 7, 2016.

When he opened his eyes, Peach said, he saw a dark blue Chevy Cobalt speed past their vehicle, closely followed by a burgundy pickup truck.

"They flew by us," Peach said. "When they passed, they were bumper to bumper."

Suddenly, he said, the blue car quickly swerved to get back on the right side of the road, just past a grey car.

"The truck didn't have time," he said.

It was at that moment, he said, the truck collided with the car travelling in the other direction. He said the truck flipped and landed in a ditch, while the blue Cobalt sped off.

"We figured he'd stop," he said, "but he kept going."

Peach was one of four people who testified Wednesday in the trial of Steven Ryan Mercer at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's.

A family member holds a photo of Hannah Thorne and her grandmother, Gertie Thorne, in the courtroom at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's, where the trial of Steve Ryan Mercer is being held. Mercer is charged with street racing causing death in connection with the crash that killed Hannah and badly injured Thorne on July 7, 2016, along the New Harbour Barrens highway.
A family member holds a photo of Hannah Thorne and her grandmother, Gertie Thorne, in the courtroom at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's, where the trial of Steve Ryan Mercer is being held. Mercer is charged with street racing causing death in connection with the crash that killed Hannah and badly injured Thorne on July 7, 2016, along the New Harbour Barrens highway.

Mercer is facing charges in connection with the crash that killed 18-year-old Hannah Thorne. She was the passenger in a Hyundai Accent driven by her grandmother, Gertie Thorne, when the vehicle collided with a red Ford F-150 pickup truck. Hannah died instantly; her grandmother spent two months in hospital recovering from serious injuries.
The truck was badly damaged and in a ditch at the accident scene when police arrived, and driver Brian King admitted to the responding officers he had been behind the wheel.
King eventually pleaded guilty to charges of street racing causing death, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm and negligent driving, and received a four-year jail sentence, minus credit for the time he had spent in jail since his arrest. In an agreed statement of facts, King acknowledged he and Mercer had been drag racing.
Mercer, however, has pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal negligence causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, street racing causing death, street racing causing bodily harm and breaching court orders.

Mercer was arrested after a licence plate identification was provided at the scene. The Cobalt was registered to his girlfriend. Mercer is not in custody, having been granted bail.

Members of Hannah's family were in court for the trial. One was holding a photo of Hannah and her grandmother, while a few were seen wiping away tears during testimony.

While all four who testified Wednesday said they saw the blue Cobalt passing at a high speed, they couldn't say for certain the make of the car was a Cobalt. In cross-examination by Mercer's lawyer, Randy Piercey, Peach admitted he only found out the make of the car later when someone told him.

Piercey and Crown prosecutor Richard Deveau are scheduled to make their final arguments Thursday afternoon.

Rosie.mullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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