Father in custody battle dies in crash

Michelle Martin, The StarPhoenix

Published: Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A 35-year-old Saskatoon father at the centre of a nationally publicized custody dispute has been killed in a head-on collision with an allegedly drunk driver headed the wrong way down a divided highway.

The man, who did not know he was a father until shortly before his son's birth, pursued custody of the boy, known as "Baby Ian" and now 16 months of age, after he was given up for adoption.

Shortly after 10 p.m. Saturday, RCMP were called about a vehicle headed southbound in a northbound lane of Highway 11 near Dundurn. Moments later, they were notified of a crash in the northbound lanes at the turnoff to the Dundurn military base.

They found the 35-year-old man dead at the scene. Passengers in the Pontiac Sunfire, which included a 43-year-old woman, an 82-year-old man and a 65-year-old woman, were also injured.

A 40-year-old Regina man, who had been driving the southbound GMC pickup and accompanying trailer, was not seriously hurt. He has been charged with refusing to provide a breath sample, impaired driving causing death, three counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and three counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. The man is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 2 in Hanley.

The family of the deceased declined to comment at this time.

The deceased has been identified as the man who had been fighting a court battle over the custody of his son. The boy's mother had not informed him of her pregnancy and made adoption arrangements without his input.

While the names of those involved in the court battle were initially published, a later publication ban of those names was ordered by the court.

The father only found out about her pregnancy a few weeks before she gave birth at a Saskatoon hospital in April 2006. Immediately after birth, the baby -- given the psuedonym "Baby Ian" by the courts -- went into the custody of his adoptive family in Prince Albert. After taking a DNA test three months later, the baby's father began fighting for custody of his son and in October that year, he and his then-fiancee were granted weekly one-hour visits at a Prince Albert child centre.

In June, an Appeal Court judge granted him one-hour visits with his son every second week, which overruled a January court decision that barred him from seeing the boy in order to give the child a period of "familial calm."

At the time of the latest decision, the man told The StarPhoenix he was "very excited" about being granted the visitation rights. It was also reported that he was in the process of appealing the entire decision that granted full custody to the Prince Albert couple.