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Drunk driver who killed 3 in Pemberton crash sentenced to 8 years

May 2015 accident killed Whistler's Ross Chafe, Kelly Blunden, and Pemberton's Paul Pierre Jr.

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A man who pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing the deaths of three people near Pemberton was sentenced last week to eight years and four months in prison, minus time served.

Lillooet's Samuel Alec, 45, was driving down a steep section of Duffey Lake Road on May 31, 2015, when his vehicle crossed the centre line, striking Whistler cyclists Ross Chafe, 50, and Kelly Blunden, 53, head on. A passenger in the car, 52-year-old Lil'wat Nation member Paul Pierre Jr., was also killed in the crash.

The judge took Alec's troubled past into account when considering the sentence, handed down in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Friday, April 28.

"Mr. Alec's childhood was marred by periods of neglect and abuse," Justice William Ehrcke said, detailing how Alec suffered physical and sexual abuse, and began drinking and smoking marijuana at the age of 10, as first reported by CBC.

In all cases involving Indigenous offenders, the court must consider an individual's Aboriginal heritage, including systemic factors. Ehrcke said, in Alec's case, his background was a mitigating factor in the sentence, along with his demonstrated remorse and guilty plea.

Alec's mother, Georgina, testified about the abuse she suffered at a residential school in the Fraser Valley, which she said impacted her abilities as a mother.

"I learned my parenting skills from those priest and nuns — to be abusive. To be put down. I know I wasn't a good mother," she said.

The court also heard harrowing details from the day of the fatal crash when an intoxicated Alec tried to leave the scene, urging, "No police, no police," when another driver said he was going to call 911, according to the CBC's coverage.

Crown had called for a 12-year sentence, which would have been the longest in Canadian history for an impaired driving charge causing death. In custody since August 2015, Alec will end up spending another six years in jail. His sentence also includes a 15-year driving ban and mandatory DNA testing.

Stewart Blaser, a friend of both Chafe and Blunden who was several hundred metres behind the cyclists at the time of the crash, told Pique that, although he never expected Alec to be sentenced to the full 12 years, he was still disappointed in the judge's ruling.

"I know the judge was very thoughtful in his sentencing, but it didn't matter what the sentence was going to be, it wasn't going to satisfy me," he said. "The only thing that would really satisfy me is if I knew (Alec) was going to be locked up for the rest of his life... and couldn't hurt any more people."

Blaser admitted the past few months have been especially challenging for him with last week's decision following a March sentencing hearing where the Whistler resident delivered a victim impact statement, telling the court he wants to "curl up in a ball and cry" every time he recalls the day of the crash.

On the second anniversary of his friends' deaths, Blaser will once again lead a memorial ride from Whistler to the Joffre salt sheds and back — the same route the group was meant to complete two years ago when tragedy struck.

"It's been a very difficult, tumultuous time for me, but riding my bike always makes me feel better," he added.

The ride, organized by the Whistler Cycling Club, will set off from Alpine Market at 9 a.m. It's free for club members to participate and $2 for non-members. Visit www.whistlercyclingclub.ca/calendar for more details on the ride as May 31 nears.

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