Alberta trucker gets 8 years for killing 5

A Calgary-area truck driver found guilty of manslaughter in a 2007 crash that killed two adults and three children has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Kiarra Gautreau, 6, and Alexia Gautreau, 9, above, as well as Zachary Morrison, 16 months, died in the December 2007 crash. ((CBC))
A Calgary-area truck driver found guilty of manslaughter in a 2007 crash that killed two adults and three children has been sentenced to eight years in prison.

Provincial court Judge Bruce Fraser sentenced Daniel Tschetter, 51, on Wednesday morning, also banning him for life from a holding a licence that would allow him to drive a commercial vehicle.

Tschetter won't be able to hold a regular driver's licence for five years after his release. He is also banned from owning firearms and must submit a DNA sample.

"The public should never again be subjected to his recklessness and be at the mercy of such a vehicle being driven by him as he did with such horrific results," said Fraser. "However, I do not believe he need be prohibited from driving any vehicle for life."

The judge factored in time served and other circumstances, reducing Tschetter's actual sentence to five years, 6½ months.

Tschetter, who lives in Cochrane, had already been found guilty of five counts of manslaughter and one count of obstruction of justice in the deadly December 2007 crash.

Speeding concrete-mixer truck

During the trial, court heard that Tschetter was speeding in his concrete-mixer truck, passing on the shoulder of Highway 2 and driving erratically before the crash.

Grieving mother Previna Gautreau, centre, faces reporters following the sentencing Wednesday. ((Tara Fedun/CBC))

Witnesses testified they saw no brake lights when the truck plowed into the back of a car waiting at a red light at the intersection of 194th Avenue and Macleod Trail S.E., dragging it about 275 metres. The car ended up lodged under the bigger vehicle.

The car's occupants — Chris Gautreau, 41; his daughters, Alexia, 9, and Kiarra, 6; Gautreau's fiancée, Melaina Hovdebo, 33, and her son, Zachary Morrison, 16 months — were killed.

The judge described the victims as "five innocent people whose lives were snuffed out in milliseconds, probably literally without knowing what hit them, by the wanton and reckless disregard for their lives by the offender."

The grieving parents of the children killed in the crash said the sentence was meaningless.

"I feel numb. No amount of sentence would have made a difference. It doesn't bring my girls back. It doesn't bring Chris, Zachary or Melaina back," said Previna Gautreau.

Zachary's father, Lee Morrison, wasn't critical of the judge, but of the justice system.

"I think we need to step forward as a society and treat these things in a harsher manner," Morrison said. "He will be let out [in] less than that because of the way the system works. In three, four, five years I will still go to the cemetery with this pain. He will go home to a Thanksgiving dinner."

Credit for offered guilty plea

During a sentencing hearing in August, Tschetter, who was criticized by his victims' families for not showing any emotion throughout the trial, broke down and cried as he listened to victim impact statements.

But at the scene of the crash, Tschetter showed no remorse, the judge noted on Wednesday.

Daniel Tschetter, right, leaves the Calgary courthouse in May after being convicted of manslaughter. ((CBC))
"He showed no concern for the victims, only himself," Fraser said. "He examined his truck more than the victim's vehicle. He took a drink of vodka from an open bottle in his truck. He then attempted to destroy that evidence. He phoned his employer to advise him of the collision and gave a false story to deflect the blame."

The trucker at one point offered to plead guilty to charges of dangerous driving causing death – an offence the judge considers identical to vehicular manslaughter. Crown lawyers didn't accept that plea, but Fraser still considered it in reducing the amount of time Tschetter will serve in prison.

"Given the offender was always prepared to plead to the identical offences that I convicted him of … I am prepared to treat his offer to plead to those charges as an early and timely guilty plea."



(With files from Tara Fedun)