By Delon Shurtz
Southern Alberta Newspapers
An elderly woman is lucky to be alive after surviving a head-on collision last year while driving along a highway south of Lethbridge.
The woman, who was 80 years old when she was struck by another car on Highway 5 on Feb. 12, 2022, sustained numerous injuries, including several bone fractures to various parts of her body. She spent three and a half months in hospital, and even though she has largely healed, she is still in pain and has difficulty walking.
The driver of the other vehicle, 37-year-old Megan Joelle Powelson of Raymond, pleaded guilty Oct. 3 in Lethbridge court of justice to charges of impaired driving causing bodily harm and drug possession. She was handed an 18-month conditional sentence, which allows her to serve her sentence in the community with nine months of house arrest 24 hours a day, followed by nine months of curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. every day.
Court was told RCMP received a call about 7:30 p.m. from a motorist who said a black Dodge Ram was weaving all over the road as it travelled west between Raymond and Highway 5. At one point it drove into the ditch and continued to drive in the ditch.
About 30 minutes later the vehicle was seen leaving Magrath, and as it turned onto Highway 5 it cut off another vehicle then swerved into oncoming traffic before colliding head-on with a Dodge Journey.
Powelson’s vehicle ended up on its side in the middle of the highway, while the other vehicle ended up in the ditch. Both drivers were taken to the Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge.
Crown Prosecutor Dawn Janecke said police searched Powelson’s vehicle and found a plastic container with two blue rocks of fentanyl. Later at the hospital an officer noted that Powelson was intoxicated and a subsequent toxicology report indicated there was methamphetamine, fentanyl, morphine and other drugs in her system.
“It is the Crown’s contention that the accused was obviously under the influence of those substances at the time of the collision,” Janecke said.
Janecke acknowledged the serious nature of, and society’s abhorrence to, the offences, but pointed out Powelson does not have a criminal record which, along with her guilty plea, expression of remorse, willingness to accept responsibility for her actions, and weaknesses in the Crown’s case had it gone to trial, swayed the Crown and defence to jointly recommend the conditional sentence instead of actual jail.
Janecke said Powelson began using drugs “slightly” before the incident, and developed an addiction. She has been sober since the accident, however, and is taking steps to get into a residential treatment program.
Lethbridge lawyer Cara Lebenzon said her client is going through a divorce and suffers with PTSD from abuse and other challenges in her life, but she is on the road to recovery by her choice. Lebenzon added Powelson’s doctor in Raymond also believes she has a good chance of recovery, a sentiment he shared in a letter read in court.
Lebenzon added that Powelson wasn’t in the depth of addiction at the time of the collision, but had only “dabbled” in fentanyl and methamphetamine, but she was on pain medication for health issues.
“As we know, certain prescription drugs can lead to serious opioid use, and drug abuse, as well, and that’s what happened in this situation,” Lebenzon said.
She said Powelson feels “horrible” for causing a collision that injured the elderly woman, and will spend the rest of her life regretting what she did.
During her 18-month conditional sentence, Powelson must reside with her father, who lives in a small community east of Calgary, or otherwise where approved by her supervisor. She must be assessed and take psychological and psychiatric counselling, receive treatment for substance abuse, abstain from consuming alcohol and drugs, and not possess any weapons. She is also prohibited from driving for two years.