Court rejects 'Grammar Granny' plea bargain
Dilan Cole Kolb admits responsibility in QEII fatality of beloved Ontario university professor
A provincial court judge has rejected a plea bargain deal for an Olds man who pleaded guilty to being responsible in the highway crash death of a nationally recognized Ontario university professor who was affectionately dubbed the “Grammar Granny”.
“This is a serious offence. It addresses simple negligence,” said Judge Patrick McIIhargey. “There is nothing to indicate he has changed what he was doing. I am not prepared to accept the joint submission.”
McIIhargey ordered a pre-sentence report be prepared for the sentencing of 20-year-old Dilan Cole Kolb, a native of Olds, who admitted responsibility in the Oct. 6, 2011 death of 62-year-old Georgia Lyons, of North Bay, Ont. A date for Kolb’s sentencing will be set Aug. 20.
The Olds man pleaded guilty March 21 to failing to proceed safely after stopping at an intersection, a charge under the Provincial Offences Procedures Act Rules of Road. The maximum sentence under the provincial legislation is a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail. The Crown and defence’s joint submission was for a $2,000 fine only.
During a Didsbury court appearance on Aug. 9, Kolb told McIlhargey in a prepared written statement that he continues to have “nightmares” about the two-vehicle crash on the QEII.
“I feel very bad for the family, and if I could, I would change it in a heartbeat,” said Kolb. “It is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”
However, while McIIhargey noted Kolb’s statement was “heartfelt” and that the Olds man felt “bad” about the death of Lyons, “there was no apology.” The judge also noted Kolb had two prior speeding tickets and one conviction of operating a vehicle with more than .08 alcohol in his system.
Kolb was the driver of a 2005 Ford pickup that was eastbound on the Amerada Road when he attempted to cross four lanes of the QEII.
Court was told Kolb made it across two southbound lanes but when he attempted to cross the northbound lanes, a northbound 2010 Nissan Sentra car travelling at 111 km/h crashed into the side of his vehicle.
Lyons, a passenger in the front seat of the Nissan, died in the collision. She was in Alberta at the time visiting family in Calgary. The driver of the vehicle, Lyons’ daughter Rachel Irwin, suffered serious injuries, including a punctured lung, fractured ribs, a concussion and a shattered left leg. Lyons’ granddaughter, Isabella Tourville, who was seated in the back, was not injured. Court was told Kolb suffered no “significant” injuries.
Meanwhile, Lyons’ death devastated her many friends and fellow employees at Nipissing University in North Bay, where she was a beloved and respected figure. Lyons was even recognized in a 2010 Maclean’s magazine article, which honoured her contributions to the institution.
“Her death was devastating for our students. She was loved by all. She had a great sense of humour and was kind and open-hearted,” said Dan Pletzer, director of institutional research and planning at the university.
Pletzer, who was Lyons’ immediate supervisor, said the deceased professor was the Academic Skills Program coordinator who oversaw the program’s centre and the 15 to 20 students who helped others work through writing challenges.
“She saw several students every day and worked with them during the evenings and on weekends,” said Pletzer, adding it was common practice for Lyons to work with international students and bring them to her farm just outside North Bay for meals. “Apart from that she took a leading role in organizing the university’s annual International Food Fair.”
Before Lyons’ tragic death she had just returned from a special invitation business trip to India where she was personally invited to assist students and staff at the Writing Centre at Chowgule College in Goa, India. Her work there focused on styles of writing, structuring of projects, and public speaking.
Immediately following Lyons’ death the university held a memorial service. The school also established an endowed bursary fund to keep the memory of “Grammar Granny” alive at Nipissing University.
The institution successfully raised $5,000 for the bursary, which was matched by the Ontario provincial government.