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Key witness dodges testifying, delaying fatal dump truck crash trial

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The trial of Milton Urgiles, accused of criminal negligence leading to the death of one of his workers in 2020, resumed Friday in a Barrie courtroom with the Crown alleging that a key witness was "holding her evidence hostage."

For weeks, the court has tried and failed to serve Janeth Zambrano with a subpoena to testify at the trial of her common-law spouse.

"It is clearly evident that Ms. Zambrano has gone to great lengths to evade service," the Crown stated.

The court heard Zambrano, who owns the trucking company that employs Urgiles as its supervisor, provided the dump truck involved in the crash on Sept. 22, 2020, that resulted in the death of 53-year-old driver Denis Garant along the Adjala-Tecumseth Townline near Alliston.

The Crown believes Zambrano holds crucial evidence that would be "detrimental to the court's truth-seeking function," including procedures and safety policies relating to the vehicles.

On Tuesday, Justice Mary Vallee ordered the issuance of a material witness warrant for the arrest of Zambrano after police also admitted serving the woman with a court subpoena for the preliminary hearing proved challenging.

Police arrested Urgiles months after the deadly crash, alleging a mechanical defect caused the company's dump truck to lose control, crash into a ditch and collide with a tree claiming the life of Garant.

A dump truck crashed into a tree on Adjala-Tecumseth Townline near Alliston, Ont., on Sept. 22, 2020.

The Crown said text messages Garant sent to Urgiles noting his concerns about the truck's steering the night before the collision went unanswered and that the supervisor put Garant back behind the wheel of the dump truck the following day.

Zambrano's avoidance of the courtroom left the Crown to seek a hearsay application in her absence and request preliminary hearing testimony to also be heard at the trial.

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