Jail for Dartmouth hit-and-run driver

A Dartmouth, N.S., man has been sentenced to one year in prison for a hit-and-run that put three people in hospital.
Rene Cormier covers his face as he enters court Monday. (CBC)

A Dartmouth, N.S., man has been sentenced to one year in prison for a hit-and-run car crash that put three people in hospital.

Rene Cormier, 37, admitted to drinking and driving in the April 2010 crash, though he was not charged with that offence. He will also serve two years probation for the crash and be banned from driving for five years.

All three victims were pulled from their car using the Jaws of Life. All suffered serious long-term medical consequences in the crash.

None has returned to work.

'Horrific crash'

On Monday, Judge Ted Tax described it as a "horrific crash."

"[It's] almost a miracle that all three people survived," the judge said.  

Tax called Cormier's flight from the crash a "cowardly act of self-preservation."

"You certainly came very, very close to something much, much more serious," he said.

Cormier was driving a Chevrolet Silverado at 2 a.m. on April 10, 2010, near the Dartmouth intersection of Braemar Drive and Braeside Court.

He collided head on with a Toyota Corolla. Cormier abandoned the truck and fled the scene on foot.

Michael Chelnick was driving the car that Cormier hit.  He and his two passengers had to be cut from their vehicle.

"He left the scene of the crime. We didn't know whether we were alive or dead," Chelnick said Monday.

He said the consequences of the crash still plague all three victims.

"In two days' time, I have to have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon because the pin in my hip, it's really bothering me. Possibly going to have that removed. Other than that, just pain every day, basically," he said.

"I feel that he's remorseful. But at the same time, I'm not sure. I hope he realizes the severity of what he did and how me, my older brother and my other brother's girlfriend are going to feel for the rest of our lives."

Rachel McCabe, 20, was also hurt in the crash.

Weeks after the crash, she told CBC News she was badly hurt.

"I broke my wrist, I broke my ankle, I broke my femur and I broke some things in my back," she said in 2010.

She remembered the accident clearly.

"He was coming from the Main Street off-ramp and he came across all the lanes and hit us head on — it was like the lights attracted him.…our headlights or something," she said.

He then got out of the truck, ran down Waverley Road and disappeared, McCabe said.

Cormier expresses regret

Police said the driver's lawyer called them the next day. He eventually turned himself in.

At his sentencing hearing Monday, Cormier expressed regret for his actions. Sobbing with his supporters, Cormier spoke to the court.

"I'm just sorry. I don't know what else I could do," he said. "I just want to apologize to everyone."

His lawyer Kevin Burke and the Crown attorney had recommended a 12-month jail sentence. 

"I think that you may have seen this afternoon a genuine remorse expressed by Mr. Cormier of the harm that he's caused as a result of his driving and he's going to pay for it," Burke said.