WINNIPEG — A Winnipeg police officer has testified about his terrifying plunge through ice on the Red River during a search for evidence on the night a city bus driver was fatally stabbed.
Const. Justin Casavant was on the stand Monday at the trial of Brian Kyle Thomas, who has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the February 2017 death of Irvine Fraser.
The canine unit officer told jurors that he and a police dog were called to the scene at the University of Manitoba and helped other officers take a suspect into custody on the river.
After putting the dog in a cruiser, the constable returned to the Red to look for evidence but broke through the ice into water up to his armpits.
Casavant says he managed to haul himself out before fellow officers pulled him to shore and a medical check in an ambulance.
The court has previously heard that Fraser died after being repeatedly stabbed outside his bus.
The jury heard Casavant's flashlight died after crossing the river during his search, and that he broke through the ice while returning to the far shore using his cellphone for illumination.
"I panicked. I was able to, almost like a seal, slide myself up onto the ice," Casavant testified. "I consider myself very lucky I didn’t get pulled in."
A second police officer, Const. Daniel Carriere, testified Monday he was the one who arrested the accused on the ice.
"I did notice that his hands were bloody and there was blood on his right ear," Carriere told court.
Another officer, Christopher St. Croix, told jurors that he found a knife with a silver blade and a black handle on the east bank of the river more than two months after Fraser's death.
St. Croix said he found it near the base of a tree, but could not remember the exact location of the tree when asked by Thomas’s lawyers.
The trial has previously heard it is an agreed fact that the knife contained no material for DNA analysis and cannot be linked to either Thomas or Fraser.
The Crown contends that Thomas was the last passenger on Fraser's bus run and that the driver repeatedly told him to get off. Thomas refused, became angry and demanded to be driven elsewhere.
The Crown believes Fraser then physically forced Thomas out the door and stood in the doorway to prevent him from getting back in.
Jurors have previously watched security footage of a verbal and physical altercation between the two, and have been told by one witness about seeing a fight involving two men outside the bus. (CTV Winnipeg, The Canadian Press)