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Filmmaker trial underway


Video footage of a Squamish man receiving fatal burns during a snowmobile stunt was played in court, this week.

Professional snowboarder Josh Chapman attempted to ride through a wall of flame - after having a bucket of gasoline thrown over him - during a party in the Squamish Business Park on July 20, 2002. The former Howe Sound Secondary School student died of his injuries three weeks later, aged 24.

The stunt was taped by Surrey video producer Jeremy Walter Deichen, who appeared in Vancouver Supreme Court Tuesday (Sept 6), charged with criminal negligence causing death.

Crown lawyer Ian Hay detailed events as they unfolded at Rattrays Auto Service, 1123 Enterprise Way, that evening."There was a band playing in the shop," he said. "Outside people were driving cars up and down creating smoke by spinning the tires. Fires were lit on the roadway and people were leaping through them.

"The party concluded when Mr. Chapman drove the snowmobile through the fire. No steps had been taken to protect Mr. Chapman and no equipment was present to extinguish fire.

"The actions of the accused were motivated by the desire to create a commercially viable video for the public to view."He outlined that Deichen's company, Loaded Gun Productions Ltd, was known for extreme sports productions and the Drunk in Public series. He claimed the snowmobile stunt was filmed on two cameras, "controlled by the accused to capture events from different vantage points."

Deichen, he claimed, "was involved in obtaining the gasoline used, and recruiting and directing" a teenager to throw some over Chapman. The teen, who cannot be named, was earlier convicted in a youth court of criminal negligence causing death. Const. Dan Marinescu, at the time of Squamish RCMP, said there were still intoxicated partygoers hanging around when he arrived at 4:26 a.m. on July 21, 2002. He described an array of beer bottles and cans indicating where people had been watching events, and produced evidence including a charred baseball cap.

Cpl. Leo Tucker, of the RCMP integrated homicide team, said that he later tracked down Deichen, who provided copies of footage on mini DV cassettes. These were played in court.

The first clip, of around ten minutes duration, showed a succession of cars accelerating forwards and backwards, and spinning around, cheered on by an apparently teenaged audience. A patch of roadway is set afire, and someone is seen leaping through this.

The snowmobile is seen accelerating into the fire, after which the rider becomes engulfed in flames. He falls off, flailing and thrashing around on the ground. Onlookers are by now screaming, calling for help, and trying to extinguish the flames by beating garments against the prone figure. As Chapman burns, voices can be heard shouting: "Holy f***, dial 911," "Calm down, calm down," and "Dial 911 right now."

A second clip is briefer, showing preparation to the snowmobile, followed by the stunt. Immediately afterwards, the camera operator runs in search of a fire extinguisher.

Deichen's lawyer, Matthew Nathanson, has yet to make his case. The trial, before judge alone, is slated to last four weeks, and will likely hinge on the issue of whether Deichen commissioned the stunt.

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