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Ramage found guilty on all counts in crash that killed Magnuson

NHL.com @NHL

NEWMARKET, Ont. - Former NHL player Rob Ramage was found guilty Wednesday on all five charges he faced in a fatal crash that killed a former Chicago Blackhawks player.

Keith Magnuson, 56, died instantly on Dec. 15, 2003, when a rental car driven by Ramage, 48, slammed into another vehicle in Woodbridge, Ont. Ramage's wife sobbed after the jury in this town north of Toronto found Ramage guilty.

The charges included impaired and dangerous driving causing the death of Magnuson, impaired and dangerous driving causing bodily harm to Michelle Pacheco, the driver of the vehicle that Ramage's rental car struck head-on, and having a blood alcohol level over the legal limit.

"It's a tragedy for all involved, including my family," Ramage said outside court.

His lawyer Brian Greenspan said he would be going over the case to see if there were grounds to appeal.

Nobody reported Ramage driving erratically over the 25 kilometres from a funeral reception for NHL alumni president Keith McCreary to the site of the collision with Pacheco, 39, of Concord, Ont.

Ramage was "as sober as a proverbial judge" when his rental car suddenly veered into on-coming traffic, Greenspan said last week in his closing arguments.

"Not a single person from the reception were called as Crown witnesses," Greenspan said. "Had there been a witness who could advance their case you would have heard from them."

No breath tests were administered because Ramage was given morphine after arriving at hospital and couldn't understand police.

Several York Region Police officers testified they smelled alcohol on Ramage's breath, but the first emergency room nurse to treat him didn't think he was drunk, even though his blood contained "toxic levels" of alcohol when a lab technician tested it several hours later.

Jurors heard the smell of alcohol came from three beer cans that exploded and sprayed the inside of the car upon impact.

Prosecutor Paul Tait said scientific evidence showed Ramage had up to four times the legal blood-alcohol limit at the time of the crash.

Greenspan suggested the samples were flawed because a nurse admitted she used an alcohol swab to take blood and not the approved non-alcohol kit.

Court also heard a mechanical defect could have caused the crash.

A Transportation Ministry mechanic conceded that it was possible a bent stud jammed into a brake component of the left front wheel could have locked the wheel, although he said the steering assembly would still work.

How the stud, one of five holding the wheel in place, got jammed remains a mystery, but he said he didn't think the collision would cause "enough force" to jam the stud.

Ramage, who now lives in St. Louis, where he played six NHL seasons with the Blues, is to be sentenced Jan. 17.

He won Stanley Cup finals with the Calgary Flames and Montreal Canadiens.

Magnuson was a defenceman who played his entire 11-season NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks, including a few seasons as team captain.

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