By: Jane Sims
If ever there was a cautionary tale for parents to relay to their fearless teenage kids, it’s this one — a stupid idea that became deadly.
Riley Shannon died trying to stop three buddies from joyriding around on John Deere skid steer, akin to a Bobcat vehicle, that belonged to his friend’s dad.
They weren’t supposed to be driving it. They were told to get off it and leave it alone.
Shannon was run over. The three teenagers didn’t stick around to help him.
And that’s going to give each of them a criminal record.
Wednesday morning, Adam Sinden, 19, Ryan Esler, 19, and Trent Weller, 20, all of Thames Centre, each pleaded guilty to failing to remain at an accident to offer assistance for their boneheaded activities on March 11, 2017.
They were subdued in a London courtroom Wednesday, dressed in their best suits, quietly listening to how one dumb decision turned tragic.
Assistant Crown attorney George Christakos outlined the facts of the case to Ontario Court Justice Wendy Harris Bentley.
All three accused were teenagers attending a party at the Dorchester home of their friend, Amanda Murray. There were 12 other people at the party. Shannon was an acquaintance of theirs.
Sinden, Esler and Weller showed up at the party at about 11 p.m. and started or consumed one beer each. Just before midnight, they headed out to what the family referred to as “the toy shed,” a garage where the Murrays stored their recreational vehicles.
Weller, Christakos said, jumped into the cab of the skid steer, started it up and moved it less than a metre. Murray told him to stop, get out it and leave it alone. Weller, Christakos said, complied.
Sinden, who Christakos said had experience with machinery, stepped up and said he would move the machine back to its proper place so Murray could shut the garage door.
But instead, Sinden backed the skid steer out, with Weller holding onto the side and Esler jumping into the front bucket, standing up and leaning on the cab.
Sinden turned the machine around and began to drive down the long driveway.
Murray wanted them to stop. She called Shannon, who was in the house, from her cellphone, to get some assistance.
Also helping him was another friend, Reece Mattocks. The two young men went outside to see the three buddies heading down the lane.
Sinden was pushing snow with the front bucket. He came across the lawn, still with Esler on the front with his back on the front window.
Mattocks later told the police that the skid steer was moving slowly and he and Shannon were able to catch up to it by speed-walking after it.
Mattocks caught up to the skid steer and attempted to knock on the side of it, but was scared and held back. Shannon did knock on the window. By then, Weller had jumped off the side and was walking behind the machine.
Shannon banged on the wire mesh that was over the driver’s window. When he did, his right foot became caught between the blade and the front wheel.
The skid steer moved forward another 400 to 500 metres. Shannon’s other ankle was caught in the machine’s track. He was pulled in from his ankle right to his shoulder, Christakos said. The skid steer was fully on his mid-section when it stopped.
Christakos said Shannon screamed out in pain and Weller yelled at Sinden to move forward.
Once the skid steer was off Shannon, Sinden stopped. Esler jumped off the bucket and Sinden got out of the cab.
They asked Shannon where he was hurt. Shannon said he couldn’t feel his thigh and told them to call an ambulance.
Esler ran to the house to tell Murray, while Shannon pleaded with Mattocks to call 911. He told Mattocks he thought he was dying.
Mattocks ran down the driveway to get the rural home’s 911 number. By then, all three of the teens who had been on the skid steer were in the house, telling Murray, “Riley had been run over.”
Witnesses say Esler told his pals: “Let’s go, let’s go, get your stuff, guys.”
Then the three grabbed their belongings and beer and ran outside into the woods.
“The three did not attempt to provide assistance to Mr. Shannon,” Christakos said. None of them called 911, but knew Mattocks had made a call.
From the woods, Esler called his friend Jacob Vanyolia and asked him to come pick the three teens up on a back side road near a pond.
Mattocks returned alone to Shannon, who was unconscious but still breathing. He followed the instructions he was getting over the phone from a 911 dispatcher while he waited for paramedics and the police.
Emergency crews got there just after midnight and found Shannon motionless on his left side in the fetal position behind the skid steer.
He was foaming at the mouth and unresponsive. There was bruising to his right side and abdomen.
Shannon was pronounced dead at London’s Victoria Hospital shortly before 1 a.m.
The three teenagers were picked up by Vanyolia. Esler didn’t tell him exactly what had gone down, just that “something happened.”
Two of them had a half-beer with them. Sinden’s defence lawyer, Jeff Conway, said his client didn’t have any beer in his belongings.
One witness tried to call Weller but at first he didn’t answer. On the second call, he hung up. Sinden called back and told the witness they took off “because he was drinking and they were scared,” Christakos said.
Vanyolia drove them to Weller’s girlfriend’s home in Putnam. They said Murray was upset with them because they were on the “Bobcat.”
Vanyolia didn’t find out what had happened to Shannon until the next day from a Facebook post. He asked Esler about it but he couldn’t understand him because Esler was crying so much.
The three were located, arrested, and charged the next morning, Christakos said.
Sinden told the police the three of them were in shock when they took off. He and Esler did go up to Shannon to see how he was, but taking off in fear “was not the right thing to do.”
Both he and Esler told the police if they could go back in time, that night would have been much different. Both have written letters of apology to Shannon’s family.
The case returns to court on Feb. 13 to set a date for sentencing, when there are expected to be at least seven victim impact statements. Pre-sentence reports were ordered for all three young men.
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