The driver of a van involved in a July crash on the Strip that killed a Mandan woman pleaded not guilty Friday and will go to trial in December.
Chad Gourneau, 23, of Bismarck, faces the possibility of 10 years in prison if convicted of leaving the scene of an accident involving death, a felony. He also is charged with three felony counts of leaving the scene of an accident involving injury, and misdemeanor aggravated reckless driving and driving under suspension.
Gourneau allegedly failed to yield the right of way when attempting to cross Memorial Highway from Third Street Southeast on July 8. A westbound 2020 GMC pickup struck the passenger side of the van. Van passenger Heather Robbins, 42, was transported to a Bismarck hospital and died from injuries suffered in the crash, authorities said.
Police allege Gorneau fled the scene on foot and at one point denied he was the driver of the van. Defense attorney Justin Balzer argued at Gourneau’s preliminary hearing Friday that his client only went for help. He asked Judge Pamela Nesvig to dismiss the felony charges.
“I wouldn’t characterize it as fleeing the scene of an accident,” Balzer said. “I would characterize it as trying to find someone to assist as best he could.”
Nesvig found there was enough evidence to move the case forward. She scheduled a three-day trial starting Dec. 14. The judge also denied Balzer’s request for a bond reduction, leaving in place the $100,000 cash bail set when Gourneau was arrested.
Two other women in the van were treated for serious injuries. Gourneau and the 16-year-old boy driving the GMC pickup suffered minor injuries, authorities said.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com