British Columbia

Drunk driver tearfully apologizes to families of 3 people he killed

Samuel Alec pleaded guilty to three counts of impaired driving causing death for a crash that killed his passenger and two cyclists. He had a blood alcohol level of more than three times the legal limit.

Samuel Alec had a blood alcohol level 3 times the legal limit when he crashed near Pemberton, B.C.

Samuel Alec was drunk behind the wheel when he hit two cyclists in May 2015 near Pemberton, B.C. They were both killed, in addition to his passenger. Today he cried as he apologized to their families. (Jane Wolsak)

A man who pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death for a crash that killed his passenger and two cyclists on Highway 99 in B.C. stood up in court on Thursday and made a tearful apology.

"I understand I killed three people. I am sorry. I have apologized to our creator and also to the three exceptional men," said Samuel Alec, dressed in a dark grey suit and clutching a black eagle feather.

Alec was drunk behind the wheel of a Chevrolet Cavalier when he veered into Ross Chafe, 50, and Kelly Blunden, 53, who were cycling along Highway 99 near Pemberton in May 2015.

Hours after the collision, Alec had a blood alcohol level roughly three times the legal limit.

Chafe and Blunden both died at the scene. Paul Pierre, 52, who was in the passenger seat of Alec's car, also died in the crash.

"I have to express to you, my Lord, that I was drinking for all the wrong reasons. I was doing it to save my marriage. I was doing it for court orders. I was doing it because my life was messed up," Alec told the judge.

He turned to the family of victims in the gallery and sobbed loudly as he apologized.

"This is by far the biggest mistake I have ever made. I apologize. I am sorry."

Defence calls for 4-year sentence

Alec's lawyer, Paul McMurray, continued sentencing submissions on Thursday by asking the judge to consider his client's tumultuous upbringing as an Aboriginal man from the Lil'wat First Nation. 

He also talked about Alec's longtime struggle with alcohol abuse.

From left, Ross Chafe, 50, Paul Pierre, 52, and Kelly Blunden, 53, died in the crash on May 31, 2015. (CBC)

"The circumstances in which he grew up produced an angry, volatile man who had conflict with the law at an early age, conflict within his family and severe substance abuse issues, which he struggled with throughout his life," said McMurray.

"His alcohol abuse, his scars and his demons got the better of him for many years as a result."

Alec has been in custody since August 2015. McMurray is asking for a sentence of two years less a day in addition to the time he's already served, which would amount to a four-year sentence.

That sentence would allow Alec to serve the remainder of his time in a provincial jail, rather than at a federal prison.

McMurray is also asking for a three-year probation period after his release.

Crown lawyers are asking for a sentence of 12 years in prison, minus the time he's already served.

That would be the longest sentence ever handed to someone found guilty of impaired driving causing death in Canada.

McMurray said Alec has been sober since being incarcerated and a long prison sentence would hinder the strides he's made.

"The notion of sentencing an Aboriginal offender and, in particular Mr. Alec, to a lengthy period of incarceration in a penitentiary will likely not achieve any benefit to him in terms of his rehabilitation."

Alec's troubled background

Alec's mother, Georgina Alec, testified at Thursday's hearing about the abuse she endured at a Fraser Valley residential school and how that affected her ability to be a parent.

The mother of Samuel Alec, Georgina Alec, testified at Thursday's sentencing hearing. She apologized to the families of the victims. (Jane Wolsak)

"I learned my parenting skills from those priests and nuns — to be abusive. To be put down. I know I wasn't a good mother," she said.

Samuel Alec cried as his 77-year-old mother recounted her experiences in residential school and her own struggles with alcohol abuse.

The court heard how Alec's father died of liver cirrhosis when he was two years old, and that he suffered abuse at the hands of his stepfather — Georgina's second husband.

At the end of her testimony, Georgina stood up and apologized to the families of the victims.

"As a mother I want to apologize to the family of these bikers. I lost a son in a car accident in 1995," said Alec.

"I hope someday that we can have a conversation."

Justice William Ehrcke has reserved his decision until later in April.