Deadly drunk driver pleads guilty to manslaughter

by Tony Blais

A St. Albert man has owned up to being extremely intoxicated when he killed one person and injured three others in a three vehicle collision in north Edmonton and then fled from the scene.

Michael Beverly Gress, 37, pleaded guilty Tuesday in provincial court to manslaughter, three counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm and hit and run in relation to the high speed March 12 crash near the intersection of 167 Avenue and 59A Street.

Gress wiped tears from his eyes as he entered his guilty pleas and the family of the deceased sobbed repeatedly during the proceeding.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Gress drank at a north side pub after leaving work on March 11 from about 4:30 p.m. until just after midnight when the bar manager cut him off.

Gress then walked outside toward his vehicle, a 2012 Dodge Avenger, however, the manager spotted him and escorted him back to the pub doors and called him a taxi.

After the cab arrived and the manager saw the intoxicated Gress speaking with the driver, he returned to the bar to work, but Gress then sent the cab away and got into his car.

Two pub patrons attempted to stop Gress from driving away, but he ignored them and nearly struck one of them while leaving. They then called 911 and reported that Gress was extremely intoxicated.

Gress then drove to another pub and continued drinking. He was cut off about an hour later when he was observed to be stumbling and was then asked to leave due to his high intoxication. A witness saw him drive away and called 911 to report him.

Another witness who saw Gress speeding north on 50 Street toward 167 Avenue and suspected he was drunk also called 911.

A short time later, the witness came across the deadly 1:30 a.m. collision and, as she stopped to help the injured, she noted Gress car had been involved and had ended up about 50 metres away.

Police determined Gress had been going west on 167 Avenue when he rear ended a Chevrolet Cavalier just past 59A Street, which pushed the Cavalier into oncoming traffic and resulted in it being hit on the passenger side by an eastbound Mitsubishi Lancer.

Meanwhile, Gress Avenger, which police later learned had been going 147 km/h in the 60-km/h zone one second before the collision, continued west in an "uncontrolled state" and went backward over the south curb of 167 Avenue, struck a tree and collided with a wooden fence.

As a result of the collision, Russell House, 29, was thrown from the passenger side of the Cavalier. He was pronounced dead at the scene due to the multiple blunt force injuries he suffered.

Evan Cardinal had to be extracted from the driver's side of the Cavalier and was taken to hospital with life threatening injuries, including upper body fractures and a collapsed lung.

Both occupants of the Lancer were also taken to hospital. Driver Kyle Yuhar suffered a fractured ankle and passenger Taylor Uganecz suffered a broken collarbone and a spine injury.

Gress was not injured and ran away on foot. He then took a taxi to his St. Albert home and was arrested later.

According to the agreed statement of facts, Gress was suspended from driving at the time of the collision. He was also not allowed to consume alcohol due to an undertaking for four unrelated charges. His criminal record reveals he has twice been convicted of impaired driving and his driver's abstract shows several speeding convictions.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Feb. 2.