Woman Who Stopped On Freeway To Rescue Ducks Faces Life In Prison

A Canadian woman parked her car on a Montreal-area highway in 2010 to help a group of ducklings; almost four years to the day later, Emma Czornobaj was last Friday found guilty of causing the deaths of a motorcyclist and his passenger daughter who smashed into her car. The jury was unanimous in convicting the 25-year-old on two counts of criminal negligence causing death, a charge that carries a maximum life sentence, and two counts of dangerous driving causing death, which comes with a maximum of 14 years in jail. The Canadian Press reports Andre Roy, 50, who was traveling with his 16-year-old daughter, Jessie, on his Harley-Davidson, was driving an estimated 70mph to 80mph in a roughly 60mph zone.

His wife was following behind them at a slower speed and avoided injury, and has said she doesn’t blame Czornobaj for the deaths; her husband died in her arms, and her daughter, who was pinned beneath the Honda Civic, died later in a hospital. The AP notes Czornobaj wiped away tears when the verdict was delivered to a packed courtroom; she was released until her pre-sentence hearing on Aug. 8. Czornobaj had stopped her car in the left lane of a provincial highway after spotting roughly seven ducklings on the median, reports CTV. The self-professed animal lover told the court that she did not see the ducklings’ mother anywhere and was trying to herd them, with the intention of taking them home. The Montreal Gazette notes that the case is an unusual one, in that Czornobaj faces a life sentence though there was no criminal intent tied to her actions. (Click to read about another unusual charge leveled against a father.)

If you don’t think Czornobaj deserves life in prison, sign the Care2 petition asking for a more just sentence.

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Christine J.
Christine J1 years ago

Very sad. Classic situation of "if only". If only she had parked more safely. If only the guy hadn't been speeding. I guess no good deed goes unpunished. I've stopped my car to rescue animals and birds, and even stopped once for a pigeon, but I've always been lucky enough to be able to do it in a safe manner that didn't risk anyone else. People have told me I'm crazy, but I couldn't live with myself if I just drove on. You have to do it safely though, and sometimes that's easier said than done.

Joni M.
Joni M2 years ago

Thank you Dale for the update. If I read this correctly, she was sentenced to 90-days in jail to be served on weekends and loss her license for 10 years. And, she is appealing.

Seems to me that she got a just sentence and she just needs to do the time. Why go through the appeal process. She did not stop in a safe way, she did not think of others on the highway. Two people died. She does need to serve some consequence, she was at some fault of the two deaths.

10 years is a long time to not have a driver's licenses, however, it's much better than spending life in prison.

Scott haakon
Scott haakon2 years ago

She is guilty. There is never a reason to stop on a highway for ducks. She failed to park safely. That was very poor judgement. While one may like animals; your responsibility is to the humans. She failed in that duty.
Some state in the US have rules on what one must stop for.
Life imprisonment is too much. Anything more than 10 years is too much for any crime.

Judith d.
Judith d2 years ago

This is really sad. She tried to do a great thing, but what followed was tragedy.
A lot of people (around here anyway) say: 'you shouldn't break for animals on the highway, because it's too dangerous' and in this case that turned out to be true. But I always break for animals, it's instinct, a reflex or whatever you want to call it.
But it would be very unfair if she's severely punished while the motorcyclist was speeding and has probably misjudged the circumstances. Like people on here have already said; she'll probably blame herself for life, don't underestimate the punishment that is feeling guilty.

Graham P.
Graham P2 years ago

Thanks Dale for the update. Destiny I wonder!!

DaleLovesOttawa O.

Update concerning this situation:

"Emma Czornobaj, the Quebec woman who stopped for ducks on a highway causing the deaths of two people in 2010, will appeal her sentence.

The Quebec Court of Appeal made the announcement Friday, about three weeks after Czornobaj was sentenced to 90 days in jail — to be served on weekends...The 26-year-old woman from the Montreal suburb of Châteauguay was to begin serving time this weekend, but since she is appealing her sentence she will remain free...Czornobaj’s sentence also includes a 10-year ban from holding a driver's licence. That’s been put on hold as well, pending her appeal.

Czornobaj was convicted in June of two counts of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing death in the 2010 deaths of André Roy, 50, and his 16-year-old daughter, Jessie."


Julie C.
Julie C3 years ago

What a tragedy coming from someone who did a gentle thing.

Dianne Dunn
Past Member 3 years ago

It was not intentional. I believe that Intentional murderers get VERY light sentences. Certainly NOT LIFE!!! especially, in Canada. Very sad and tragic that people lost their lives.......She will most likely already punish herself enough for the rest of her life. I think that the sentence should not have any jail time for this person.

Scott haakon
Scott haakon3 years ago

There are some state that have laws on stopping. She was negligent. Life is a bit much. However stopping in an unsafe manner is not excusable.

Dale O.

Yes, Angela P, some people will put all the blame on someone else, for example the motorcyclist who was speeding in the left hand passing lane. Certainly, the fact that she parked her car in the middle of the left hand passing lane had absolutely 'nothing' to do with the fact that this caused the deaths...and the moon is made of green cheese.
The next time that I save a turtle in the middle of the highway, I guess I should park in the left hand passing lane...and then rename it to the left hand 'parking lane'...then, if someone dies as a result, people will say what a great person that I am for saving a turtle (instead of parking on the side of the highway where I always park when rescuing wildlife) and how it was the fault of the other person who hit my car...parked illegally in the middle of the highway. Putting her in prison for a short time will have her remember that there are consequences to parking a car in the middle of an active highway. She will never get a life sentence by the way, that would be impossible.

Aurea W, the American justice system is not at issue here and has no relevance to the Canadian justice system. We don't have miles per hour in Canada.

As for putting 'blame' on people, that is what the justice system does, when their actions result in the death of other people.