Calgary

'This was not an accident,' judge tells driver who killed a man while speeding at 224 km/h

On what would be Daniel Tillapaugh's 46th birthday, the man who killed him while driving 224 km/h was sent to prison.

Jody Sebryk sentenced to 4½ years in prison for killing Daniel Tillapaugh in 2017

Daniel Tillapaugh, shown here, was killed on a highway north of Okotoks, Alta., after being rear-ended by Jody Sebryk, who was drunk and street racing at more than 220 km/h. (Tosha Tillapaugh)

The Tillapaugh family should be eating barbecued steak and angel food cake today. Instead, they sat in a Calgary courtroom crying, short one member who was killed in an alcohol-fuelled street racing crash. 

It would have been Daniel Tillapaugh's 46th birthday today.

On May 6, 2017, Jody Sebryk was driving more than 220 km/h on Highway 2A north of Okotoks when he rear-ended Tillapaugh's car and sent it flying through the air. 

Tillapaugh, or "our Dan," as his family calls him, died at the scene after the car he was driving was propelled 23 metres in the air and then rolled several times into a power pole. 

On Thursday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Rosemary Nation sentenced Sebryk to 4½ years in prison and imposed a seven-year driving prohibition. 

"This was not an accident," Nation said. "Mr. Sebryk drank an excessive amount of alcohol and drove his car."

"Regrettably, there's nothing surprising about the result."

History of bad driving 

Originally charged with street racing and impaired driving causing death, Sebryk pleaded guilty earlier this year to dangerous driving causing death. 

Prosecutor Josh Chan called Sebryk's crime "an extreme case" and asked the judge to impose a seven-year sentence. Defence lawyer Jim Lutz said his client made "an awful, awful decision" and proposed a two- to four-year prison term. 

Around 1 a.m. on the night of the crash, Sebryk was drunk and racing a motorcyclist on Highway 2A north of Okotoks. He had a blood-alcohol level of between .201 and .251. The legal limit is 0.08.

Originally, the motorcycle driver was also charged, but those charges were later dropped.

Sebryk had three previous convictions for speeding as well as convictions for careless driving, failing to obey traffic device and stunting.

Sebryk remorseful 

When offered the chance to speak, Sebryk offered an apology to Tillapaugh's family. 

"I know my words will sound thin," he said looking at his victim's family. "There isn't a day that goes by that I wouldn't trade my life for the life of a superior person."

Chan read aloud several victim impact statements written by Tillapaugh's family, who described the victim as a loving son, brother, husband, dad and friend.

Family friends wrote that he was a genuine, generous, gentle soul with a big smile. 

"If you were Dan's friend, you were his friend for life," wrote Ron Tillapaugh, the victim's father.

Tillapaugh had just learned he was about to become a grandfather to a baby who "will never know the love and support his grandfather would have given him."

Pat Tillapaugh said her son was funny and kind.

"Everyone loved him."

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.

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