The mother of a young woman killed in a drunk-driving crash struggled to retain her composure Tuesday in a Dartmouth courtroom as the man who was behind the wheel that night was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison.

Charlene Hudson's 22-year-old daughter, Danielle Hudson, was one of two passengers killed in October 2015 when the vehicle they were in slammed into a ditch off the Beaver Bank Road. A third passenger sustained serious injuries.

The driver, Anthony Lloyd Cox of Beaver Bank, previously pleaded guilty to two charges of impaired driving causing death and one charge of impaired driving causing bodily harm. 

"Every inch and fibre of my reality has been rocked to the core," a sobbing Charlene Hudson said in provincial court as part of a victim impact statement.

There were stifled sobs in the courtroom as Hudson recalled how she spent two days by her daughter's bedside as the young woman was kept alive by machines, until surgeons were ready to harvest her organs.

Hudson said the organ recipients have written to her to describe what her daughter's gifts have meant to them, but she hasn't had the strength to reply.

Cox was impaired, speeding

In an agreed statement of facts, Cox, 22, admitted to having consumed four beer and four shots of vodka the night of the crash.

Cox, whose licence was suspended at the time, volunteered to drive his friends home from a party after they were told it would be a two-hour wait for a cab. 

After the crash, Cox's blood-alcohol level was estimated at between 0.099 and 0.119. The legal limit in Nova Scotia is 0.08.

The court heard Cox was driving at least 50 kilometres per hour over the speed limit when he lost control of the vehicle.

Danielle Hudson and Miranda MacIsaac, 19, were flung from the vehicle. Gregory Goulding, 21, remained inside, but sustained serious injuries.

When police arrived at the scene, all three passengers were unresponsive and Cox was walking around outside the vehicle.

Hudson and Goulding both died because of their injuries. MacIsaac suffered a collapsed lung, a ruptured spleen and various broken bones, cuts and abrasions.

She did not attend Tuesday's sentencing or submit a victim impact statement.

'I lost myself'

One of Hudson's friends, Katie Noble, stood sobbing as she read her victim impact statement.

She told the court how moments before the crash, she received a text from her friend with a picture of her smiling from the back seat of the car. Noble said she initially treasured the picture, but not any more.

Beaver Bank crash

A traffic reconstructionist works at the scene of the early morning October 2015 crash. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

"She's gone and I am gone. I lost myself," she said, her voice rising to a shout.

Goulding's sister, Tracy Goulding, told the court she was in a Tim Hortons the night of the crash when she saw emergency vehicles streaming by the coffee shop. It wasn't until later she realized they were responding to the crash that killed her brother.

Goulding said when she met up with her parents that morning, "they looked like their souls were ripped from them."

She scolded Cox as he sat hunched over in the prisoner's box. She asked him why, in the 14 months since the crash, he's not reached out to her family. Cox and Goulding had been friends since kindergarten.

Cox apologizes

When given a chance to address the court, Cox looked up for the first time since the hearing had begun about an hour before.

"All I can say is I'm sorry," he said.

The sentence was a joint recommendation of the Crown and the defence, but Judge Alanna Murphy said it was unlikely to heal any wounds.

"No one is going to leave with any sense of being made whole, that something good happened here today," she said.

Murphy said Cox's relatively low blood-alcohol reading shows any level of impairment can be dangerous.

Time to think

Anissa Aldridge of MADD Canada, who accompanied the families to court as the case unfolded, said she hopes Cox will reflect on his actions that night as he serves his sentence.

"Hopefully in that time he'll give some consideration to everything that's happened," she said outside court. "It will hopefully give some time to the families to heal."

In addition to the prison term, Cox faces a five-year driving ban and he must provide a DNA sample.