Driver who killed cyclist and drove away sentenced to 2 years in prison

A driver who struck and killed a cyclist has been sentenced to two years in prison. Matthew Clifford Gaudet, 32, was driving 120 km/h when he hit Marjolaine Ward, a local school teacher who was biking that day to train for a triathlon.

Matthew Gaudet was driving 120 km/h — 40 kilometres over the limit

Matthew Gaudet, 32, centre, with black beard, walks toward Summerside court house, Friday, Nov. 22. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

A driver from western P.E.I. who struck and killed a cyclist has been sentenced to two years in prison.

Matthew Clifford Gaudet, 32, had pleaded guilty at an earlier court appearance, to dangerous driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene.

Gaudet was driving 120 km/h — 40 kilometres over the speed limit — when his car hit the bike.

Marjolaine Ward taught at the French school near Tignish for more than 10 years. She was out on her bike cycling on Route 12 near Kildare Capes, training for a triathlon the day of her death Aug. 27, 2018.

Marjolaine Ward leaves behind an adult son and daughter and a large extended family. (École Pierre-Chiasson/Facebook)

Gaudet didn't stop to help — instead he went home, switched cars, and was found by police hiding under a cottage about five hours after the crash.

When they arrested him, police noticed a strong smell of alcohol on Gaudet.

Court heard he'd bought some vodka coolers at a liquor store around 5 p.m. the evening of the collision, and drank at least two. Ward was struck around 6:50 p.m.

Chief Justice Tracey Clements noted Friday that Gaudet had consumed alcohol before and after the accident — but there was not enough evidence to bring impaired driving charges.

Gaudet's prior record included charges related to drinking and driving from a decade ago.

'Profound and tragic'

In passing sentence, Clements said this case had "profound and tragic consequences" and called Gaudet's decision to leave the scene, "unfathomable."

"The pain is clear from the victim's family," she said, adding that sending Gaudet to prison won't end that pain.

Ward leaves behind her adult children and a large extended family. Her family has said a two-year sentence is not enough.

"The fact that he's receiving two years in a federal institution is not going to compensate them for their loss and we recognize that," said Crown prosecutor John Diamond, outside Summerside court house.

"The lady was exceptional. She was a valued member of the community and a valued member to their family," he said.

"It's consistent with case law across the country."

Court heard Gaudet has struggled with alcohol and marijuana use for years, along with mental-health issues, and had confined himself to his bedroom since the collision.

After he gets out of prison, Gaudet is banned from driving for four years. The judge also ordered him to be on probation for 18 months, and do 100 hours of community service work.

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With files from Brian Higgins