It was a day of sad, dramatic and at times difficult testimony to listen to as a preliminary hearing was held in Yellowknife Wednesday for a man left a quadriplegic in an incident last year in the Sahtu community of Colville Lake.
Eddy Cook Jr., 56, from Fort Good Hope, testified from his wheelchair behind a screen which prevented him from having to look at the man accused of assaulting him in Colville Lake last August.
Kurt Stewart, 46, a former resident of Fort Good Hope is charged with aggravated assault and has chosen to be tried by a judge and jury in Supreme Court.
Preliminary hearings are held to determine if there is enough evidence to send a case to trial.
Evidence given at preliminary hearings are subject to a publication ban, in part, to avoid tainting a jury pool.
At the end of the hearing, Stewart was committed to stand trial.
When that trial will be held is unclear.
Stewart remains out of custody.
The publication ban prevents CKLB from releasing any details of exactly what happened that night.
Cook suffered catastrophic injuries in the incident and was medcevaced to the University of Alberta Hospital where he was eventually transferred to a rehabilitation medical facility before being flown back in March to Stanton Territorial Hospital where he now resides.
He suffered a spinal cord injury, has no voluntary movement in his body from the neck down and is almost certainly confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
In a hushed voice, Cook answered questions from the Crown prosecutor and Stewart’s defence lawyer about the incident that occurred that night in Colville Lake.
“It’s unbelievable what happened to me, Cook told CKLB outside the courthouse following his testimony. “Maybe if there was an RCMP detachment in Colville Lake and emergency personnel could have got there sooner, maybe I wouldn’t be in this condition.”
Cook added that if found guilty, Stewart should have to answer for what he has done to him.
He was accompanied by his brother Wilbert Cook who wheeled him into the courtroom and sat beside him during his testimony occasionally providing him with drinking water.
Wilbert works for the Dene Nation in Yellowknife.
CKLB announcer and former Fort Good Hope resident Judi Kochon says it’s very sad what has happened to Eddy.
“He was a fun, happy-go-lucky guy who was well-known across the Sahtu as a talented drummer,” Kochon said. “His family and friends, including me, have been devastated by this.”
Stewart was arrested and charged in March in Yellowknife where he now lives.
The closest RCMP detachment to Colville Lake is in Fort Good Hope but there is no all-weather road between the communities and police have to fly into Colville Lake.
It’s not believed any Mounties attended the scene the night Cook was hurt.
An arrest warrant for Stewart was eventually issued by RCMP last October.
It’s believed Stewart may have spent a night in jail after he was arrested in March but he was then released the next day.
The incident caught the attention of Sahtu MLA Danny McNeely.
He told the NWT Legislative Assembly not long after the incident that it showed the need for a police presence in Colville Lake which has a population of fewer than 150 people.