British Columbia

Crown seeks 12-year sentence for drunk driver who killed 3 near Pemberton

A sentencing hearing has begun in B.C. Supreme Court for a man who pleaded guilty to killing two cyclists and his own passenger in a drunk driving crash on Highway 99 near Pemberton in May of 2015.

Samuel Alec pleaded guilty to 3 counts of impaired driving causing death after May 2015 crash

Whistler cyclists Kelly Blunden, left, and Ross Chafe, right, were struck and killed north of Pemberton in May. (Facebook)

Crown lawyers are asking for a 12-year prison sentence and a 15-to-18-year driving ban for a man who pleaded guilty to killing two cyclists and his own passenger in a drunk driving crash on Highway 99 near Pemberton in May of 2015.

Samuel Alec has pleaded guilty to three counts of impaired driving causing death linked to the collision.

He was charged after veering into the path of two cyclists, killing both men as well as the passenger in his car.

Family members of all three victims packed into B.C. Supreme Court Monday for the first day of Alec's sentencing, which is expected to last three days.

The crash and events leading up to it

The Crown began its submissions with the series of events leading up to the crash.

Reading from a statement of facts, Crown lawyer Grace Oh told the court Samuel Alec was in the Mount Currie area in the days before the crash to attend a funeral.

The night before the crash, witnesses described Alec as "helplessly drunk" but insistent on returning to his community of Lillooet. 

Lindsay Thevarge — the daughter of victim Paul Pierre, who died in the crash — testified that she tried to take Alec's keys from him but he refused. Alec's licence had been suspended at the time for a previous offence.

Alec and 52-year-old Paul Pierre set out on Highway 99 near Lilloeet. The stretch of highway is a two-lane road with no paved shoulder.

Witnesses described seeing the the Cavalier driven by Alec swerving and nearly veering into oncoming traffic before the accident.

Fifteen kilometres down the highway, on a stretch of the highway that slopes downwards, Alec's car veered to the right and struck two cyclists — 50-year-old Ross Chafe and 53-year-old Kelly Blunden.

Both died at the scene.

The Crown described how Alec tried to flee, frantically trying to flag down passing cars.

He was later arrested by police and taken to Vancouver General hospital.

Tests taken at the hospital showed Alec had a blood alcohol level of between 2.20 and 2.75 — roughly three times the legal limit.

'Nothing will fill the empty spot in our hearts'

Emotions ran high in the courtroom Monday as the first of many victim impact statements was read aloud.

Stewart Blaser was the third cyclist who was riding with Blunden and Chafe that morning and was a few hundred metres behind at the time of the crash.

"The horrific sound I heard that day, and the images in my mind will haunt me forever. I recall walking toward the accident scene to check on my friends and saw body parts and bicycle debris everywhere," Blaser told the court.

"It was so horrific that I had to turn back. It made me sick."

Paul Maurice Pierre Jr., 52, was a passenger in the vehicle that struck the cyclists and died from his injuries. (Facebook)

A victim impact statement from the daughter of Paul Pierre — Lindsay Thevarge — was also read to the court. 

"I feel that nothing will be able to fill that empty spot in our hearts of losing such a good person. Everyone who he met would say he had the biggest heart," said the statement.

The mayor of Whistler, Nancy Wilhelm- Morden — who was friends with Kelly Blunden — also read a community impact statement about how the incident affected those in Whistler.

Victim impact statements were also read to the court from Kelly Blunden's family: his wife Donnie, his two children Tia and Keegan and his brother and mother.

Eighteen victim impact statements will be read to the court over the course of the sentencing hearing.

With files from The Canadian Press