Kitchener woman pleads guilty to 4 charges in relation to London, Ont. explosion
LONDON, ONT. -- The Kitchener woman charged in relation to last year’s explosion on Woodman Avenue in London, Ont. pleaded guilty to four charges Thursday morning.
The lawyer for Daniella Leis, 24, had confirmed to CTV News last week that she would be entering a guilty plea remotely.
In an agreed statement of facts read in court Thursday, police said when Leis got out of her vehicle, “There was a strong odour of an alcoholic beverage emanating from the breath of the accused...she unsteady on her feet and she was slurring her words.”
It also detailed how Leis was travelling the wrong way down Queens Avenue from Richmond Street to Woodman Avenue after leaving a concert at Budweiser Gardens.
It continued that at times the vehicle was travelling at a high rate of speed and before the impact a witness saw her vehicle go into the air.
After she struck the home, "A gas line was severed by the Leis vehicle causing a massive explosion…glass blew up to 76 metres."
Leis was facing 12 charges in relation to the Aug. 14. 2019 explosion but pleaded guilty to four charges of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
Richard Braiden, Leis' lawyer, says, “A guilty plea is traditionally an indication of remorse, it's an indication of someone assuming responsibility for their actions. You know she obviously feels, I think, depressed about the whole situation.”
Seven people were injured in the explosion, including two firefighters and two police officers who were rushed to hospital with serious injuries.
The most critically injured was Thomas Wenhardt, a firefighter, who was hospitalized for several days.
The agreed statement of facts explains what happened, “He was completely buried by debris from the explosion and had to be dug out by his colleagues.”
He suffered injuries including impacted teeth, a corneal abrasion, lacerations and puncture wounds, severed tendons in his hands, a fractured clavicle and rib, and a pulmonary contusion.
In total the response to the explosion involved 50 firefighters and 15 trucks.
One home was immediately destroyed and at least 10 homes in the Old East Village neighbourhood were left unsafe or uninhabitable in the aftermath. Four were eventually demolished completely.
A date for the sentencing hearing has been set on Jan. 21, 2021, and the court heard there are already five victim impact statements to be heard.
As for the expected sentence, Braiden says, “There's typically a custodial component for impaired causing bodily harm and that's just going to be a question of how long it's going to be.”
Impacted residents react to plea
Karen Fisher owned the home that Leis struck before the explosion occurred.
“It goes without saying that it was life-changing. I'm just hoping that this is something that will not negatively impact us for a long period of time," she says.
And now with a guilty plea, she believes things can progress, “With the court case you know moving along, I'm feeling positive. “
Laura Earle also lost her home on Woodman and is trying to move on.
”There's things that you can't get back like from childhood or grandparents, those things are missed.”