Jul 29, 2016 - HORRIFIC AND PREVENTABLE: DRUNK DRIVER GETS 10 YEARS FOR CRASH THAT KILLED VAN DE VORST FAMILY


Needless and avoidable. Horrific and preventable.

Those are just some of the words family members used to describe the grim aftermath of a drunken crash just north of Saskatoon that killed Jordan Van De Vorst, his wife Chanda, their daughter Kamryn and son Miguire earlier this year. 

Judge Barry Singer repeated those names in honour of the victims before accepting a joint submission from the Crown and defence, imposing a sentence of 10 years in prison to be followed by a 12-year driving prohibition for the woman who caused the crash, Catherine Loye McKay.

In June, the 49-year-old pleaded guilty to four counts of impaired driving causing death. Court heard her blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit following her arrest. 

Used tissues piled up under chairs in the Saskatoon provincial courtroom as personal, impassioned and soul-wrenching victim impact statements were read out during McKay’s sentencing Wednesday afternoon.

“I lost one third of my family,” Jordan’s father, Lou, said through tears. “We used to sit 14 around the table; now we only have 10.”

Crown prosecutor Michael Pilon described the events leading up to the crash at Highway 11 and Wanuskewin Road on Jan 3. He said McKay had been drinking at the Industrial Bar on Avenue B and patrons described her as loud, swearing and slurring her words. She was so drunk that a bartender offered to give her a ride after hearing her and a friend discuss going to another bar, Pilon said.

Instead, McKay drove herself to Crackers, a karaoke bar in the city’s north end, around 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 2. She left after bar staff cut her off because of her drunken behaviour. 

McKay stated she did not remember leaving the first bar. Pilon said when driving home, she ended up on Wanuskewin Road, driving northbound at highway speeds when she crossed onto Highway 11. McKay drove over rumble strips — ignoring a stop sign, a yield sign and a caution sign — before smashing into the driver’s side of the Van De Vorst’s car at 105 km/hr, court heard.

At the crash scene, McKay was so drunk and “out of it” that she was heard yelling something about her cell phone, Pilon said.

The Van De Vorst family was returning to Saskatoon from a visit with friends. Pilon’s voice trembled as he described how two-year-old Miguire was found unconscious in his car seat, gasping for air. The little boy later died in hospital, along with his five-year-old sister.

In a statement, the police officer who arrived first at the crash scene wrote that tending to Miguire was the hardest thing he’s ever had to take on. Afterwards, he cried in his police car. 

“I have attended to many motor vehicle fatalities. None compare to this collision,” the officer wrote.

Kamryn was pronounced brain-dead later that morning. Family members described the agony of seeing the once sassy and energetic girl lying still on a hospital bed.

Her mom, Chanda, was an exercise therapist who made clients feel like they were the only ones in a room, court heard. Her friends and relatives said she had a memorable smile, and just wanted healthy, happy kids and a good life with Jordan.

“She never judged; she just loved,” Chanda’s cousin told the courtroom. 

Lou Van De Vorst, Jordan’s father, said he misses his son’s quick wit at the dinner table and his unique solutions to household problems. Jordan’s employer called him a passionate lab technician who loved photography. 

McKay dabbed at her eyes with a tissue throughout the numerous victim impact statements. She then read her own statement, saying the only way she can live with herself is to devote her life to preventing similar tragedies.

Her lawyer, Leslie Sullivan, said McKay has five children and worked as a community development manager in Buffalo Narrows before moving to Saskatoon. In letters of support, friends said McKay has a “big heart” and loves helping animals and kids.

She was a productive, well-educated member of society — proof that people who drink and drive “come from all walks of life,” Sullivan said. Leading up to the crash, McKay began drinking to deal with personal problems, she said. 

The 10-year sentence was appropriate for someone who did not set out to kill, but made a reckless decision that caused death, Singer said. McKay has nine years and two months left to serve after credit for her time on remand.

Singer called McKay “a woman with a conscience” who did a terrible thing that will haunt her for the rest of her life.

“No one in Saskatchewan should have to drive in fear that just driving home could get you killed,” he said.

Source: The Star Phoenix


 

Last updated on: 2016-08-10 | Link to this post