The man who pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death, in connection with a horrific crash near Pemberton, was back in court on Wednesday.
In May 2015, Samuel Alec’s vehicle went off the road, hitting and killing two cyclists out for a weekend ride. They were members of the Whistler Cycling Club and have been identified as Kelly Blunden, 53, and Ross Chafe, 50.
The passenger in Alec’s vehicle, Paul Maurice Pierre Jr., 52, of the Lil’wat Nation, was also killed.
Alec has been charged with three counts of criminal negligence causing death, three counts of impaired driving causing death, three counts of driving with a blood alcohol content over .08, and one count of failing to remain at the scene of the accident.
He pleaded guilty to three counts of impaired driving causing death in February.
Crown is asking for 12 years behind bars less time served as well as a 15- to 18-year driving prohibition for Alec.
His defence lawyer, Paul McMurray, told reporters on Wednesday it’s the stiffest sentence for a similar offence he has ever heard of in Canada, but Crown maintains it meets the principle of parity with similar decisions in other provinces.
McMurray says he will be asking for two years less a day for his client in addition to time Alec has already served, which would amount to an effective four-year sentence.
Alec has been in custody since August 2015.
On Wednesday, Crown listed Alec’s remorse about what happened and his rehabilitation efforts as mitigating efforts in the case. It also submitted that Alec’s guilty plea can be considered a mitigating factor although it came after a preliminary hearing.
Aggravating factors listed by Crown Counsel Adrienne Lee include Alec’s difficulty with alcohol and his admission of turning to alcohol in times of grief.
Lee said Alec must have known when he went to a funeral of his friend in Mount Currie in the days leading up to the fatal crash that there was at least a possibility he would lose his sobriety.
Lee said Alec ignored his legal prohibition to drive and his family’s attempts to stop him from driving on the day of the crash.
Alec was banned from driving as the result of a separate offence in 2014 until Aug. 17, 2017.
“He chose to drink and drive while intoxicated on a challenging, popular highway, where he knew there would be other motorists and cyclists,” Lee said, referring to the Duffey Lake Road stretch about 25 kilometres north of Pemberton, where the crash took place.
Alec has more than 40 convictions on his criminal record, 22 of which are driving offences or relate in some way to the charges to which he’s pleaded guilty — a circumstance which Lee says is another aggravating factor in the case.
Lee said Alec also showed a “substantial and marked departure from what most people would do” by continuing to drive while intoxicated.
“He had no business being on the road,” she said. “The accused deliberately made a choice to drive causing devastating and irreparable harm to the families of the victims.”
McMurray said more weight should be put on his client’s guilty plea and remorse because of the self-analysis and rehabilitation efforts Alec went through, including successfully completing the provincial graduation requirements while in custody, as well as the “difficult circumstances” he comes from.
McMurray cited the history of alcoholism and violence in Alec’s family as important factors to consider in his sentencing, in addition to the overall effect of the residential school system and colonization on his First Nations community in Lillooet.
The court heard Alec was introduced to alcohol at the age of 10, had difficulty in school and was exposed to domestic abuse.
Alec’s mother, father, step-father and many siblings have all suffered from alcoholism.
“When the level of addiction is as deep-seated in the community,” McMurray said. “The ability of an individual to overcome this addiction presents great difficulties.”
Eighteen victim impact statements were read out in court on Monday and Tuesday by family and friends of the victims, who spoke out about how their lives have changed since the crash.
Stewart Blaser, who was also riding with Blunden and Chafe that day but survived the accident, said it has scarred him for life.
“It made me sick… It was the most horrific day of my life,” an emotional Blaser said in court, adding that the sound and images of the crash will haunt him forever.
Alec broke down in tears while listening to the victim impact statements.