Catherine McKay gets 10 years for killing Van de Vorst family in car crash

Catherine McKay has received a sentence of 10 years in a federal penitentiary after a crash in January killed four people just outside Saskatoon.

Woman, 49, pleaded guilty to 4 counts of impaired driving causing death

Catherine McKay pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death. She was sentenced today in a Saskatoon courtroom to 10 years in prison. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

A woman who killed a family of four in January while she was driving drunk was handed a 10-year sentence, minus time served, today at Saskatoon provincial court. 

Catherine McKay, 49, pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death in June. Today, a packed courtroom heard that McKay had been driving with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit.

The 10-year sentence was a joint submission. The Crown said it would credit McKay for time served, bringing her sentence down to nine years and two months. 

In January, McKay failed to halt at a stop sign at Wanuskewin Road and Highway 11. She collided with another car carrying Chanda and Jordan Van de Vorst and their two children, Miguire, 2, and Kamryn, 5.

Chanda and Jordan were pronounced dead at the scene, while both children died later in hospital.

Speaking to the courtroom, McKay said she's thought about this tragedy continually.

"Every day I see that family in my mind," McKay said. "There is nothing I can say that will help heal their wounds."

Jordan's father, Louis Van de Vorst, spoke to reporters outside the courthouse after sentencing, saying he had hoped for a longer sentence for the woman who took away four members of his family, including two grandchildren. 

Louis Van de Vorst said that if not for Catherine McKay's decision to drive drunk, he could be with his son and his family right now, spending time with his grandchildren. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

"I was hoping that the judge would say '10 years is not quite enough.' I was hoping for at least 12," Van de Vorst said, adding the judge had a chance to set a precedent for penalizing drunk drivers in Saskatchewan. 

"The judge said Saskatchewan has the worst record; let's make Saskatchewan have the worst penalty. That's what we were hoping for, so we didn't quite get that."

Devastating collision

For the first time, a packed courtroom heard details of what happened in the hours leading up to the fatal crash.

McKay started drinking wine at home while cooking dinner and then went out to a bar. Employees there said it appeared McKay was intoxicated and slurring her words.

She then drove to another bar to sing karaoke. Court heard that McKay appeared to be stumbling at the time she left the second bar around 12:05 a.m. CST. At 12:30 a.m., she drove to Wanuskewin Road.

At the time of the crash, investigators said, McKay was travelling between 102 to 120 km/h in a 90 km/h zone.

The Van de Vorst vehicle and McKay's vehicle ended up more than 30 metres away from the original point of impact. The collision was so intense the steering wheel in the Van de Vorst car ended up in the middle of the vehicle. 

Standing before the court, McKay said that when her prison term is up she will speak out against drinking and driving and offer her assistance to anyone working to prevent impaired driving.

Moments before handing down the sentence, the judge named each of the victims, calling the crash an unjustifiable crime. The judge added that he has no doubt McKay has a conscience that will haunt her for the rest of her life. 

With files from CBC's Devin Heroux