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Long sentence sought for cyclists, passenger deaths near Pemberton

Prosecutor wants 12 years for drunk driver

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A Lillooet man whose drunk driving killed three people, including two cyclists, should receive a 12-year jail term, a prosecutor argued Monday.

In February, Samuel Michael Alec, 45, pleaded guilty to three counts of impaired driving causing death in connection with a collision near Pemberton in May 2015.

He ran head-on into cyclists Ross Chafe, 50, and Kelly Blunden, 53, while they were out on a training ride on Highway 99, about 25 kilometres north of Pemberton. The two Whistler men were killed, as was Paul Pierre, 52, a close friend of Alec and a passenger in the vehicle.

Before the accident, Alec, who has a lengthy driving record, had been engaged in a continuous binge of drinking while mourning the loss of a friend in Mount Currie.

His family, who had seen him intoxicated, told him not to drive his sister's Cavalier back to Lillooet, but he refused to hand over the keys and got into the vehicle.

Near the crash scene and just before the fatal collision, one driver observed Alec approaching her quickly from behind, swerving into the oncoming lane, forcing her to step on her brakes and let him pass.

Alec narrowly missed hitting an oncoming motorcycle, which was forced onto the gravel shoulder.

Chafe, Blunden and Stewart Blaser were, meanwhile, riding their bikes southbound on the highway, with Blaser falling behind before Alec smashed into the two riders in front of Blaser.

As Blaser looked up, he saw his friends about 100 to 200 metres ahead of him, and suddenly heard the sound of a collision.

He rode into view of the accident scene, came to a stop and dismounted his bike. Seeing debris and recognizing body parts, he did not approach any further, said Crown counsel Grace Oh in describing the terrible scene.

In a victim-impact statement, Blaser said the fatal collision had "changed my life forever" and he'd lost two dear friends who had had a positive influence on him in more ways than one.

"I was there riding with my buddies," he told Justice William Ehrcke. "All things being equal, I should probably be dead, too. The horrific sound I heard that day and the images in my mind will haunt me forever."

Two doctors who were among the first to arrive at the scene found Chafe and Blunden lying in a ditch just north of Alec's car. The two men had suffered fatal injuries. The doctors also found Pierre dead in the vehicle.

After the collision, Alec was seen getting out of the car and approaching a number of vehicles, asking for a ride to Pemberton. When one motorist told him there'd been an accident and police were being called, he said: "No police, no police."

After getting into one motorist's vehicle and then being told to leave, he was approached by a motorcyclist who told him to stay at the scene. Alec pushed off of the man and fled, saying: "You can't prove I was driving the car."

Following a struggle, Alec was brought to the ground and later arrested before being taken by air ambulance to Vancouver General Hospital to be treated for the injuries he'd suffered.

Much of Monday, March 27, the first day of the three-day sentencing hearing, was taken up with the judge hearing victim-impact statements from family and friends of the victims.

A family friend read out a victim-impact statement from Donnie Blunden, the wife of Kelly Blunden, that talked about her struggles to cope with the tragic loss of her husband.

"Every aspect of my life has been profoundly and permanently marred by the events of that sunny day in May 2015," the mother of three said in her statement.

During her statement, Alec, who was clutching a black feather as he sat in the prisoner's dock, wiped away tears with a Kleenex.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden delivered a "community-impact statement" saying that the deaths of Blunden and Chafe had touched everyone in the small town of 12,000.

"Their love of the sport was legendary and their cycling skills were at the top level. Their sudden death and the manner in which they died was shocking to everyone."

In her victim-impact statement, Lindsay Thevarage, the daughter of Pierre, said she and her dad were very close and he was her "go-to person" for everything. After her father's death, she found life to be almost "unimaginable," and almost lost her job.

"I buried myself in emotional pain to the point where my friends and family got extremely worried about me."

Oh told the judge that Alec had a lengthy record that included seven criminal driving offences and numerous breaches of court orders. She said his aboriginal background included his parents attending residential schools and Alec experiencing a childhood marked by neglect, abuse and violence.

Alec broke down and sobbed Tuesday as emotional victim-impact statements from the families of Chafe and Pierre were read out in court.

Martina Pierre, 80, Pierre's mother, stood at a microphone, facing Alec, and told the court that her deceased son Paul would like to extend a message to Alec, who she referred to as "Farmer."

"I want you to carry the torch to healing and reconciliation for our First Nations people," she said to Alec on behalf of her son. "It's too bad that such a tragedy has come along. I am in a new country now, happy country. Let me go."

As Pierre spoke, Alec began sobbing as he sat in the prisoner's dock in the Vancouver courtroom.

The mother, a councillor with the Lil'wat Nation, said that she also wished to speak to the Blunden and Chafe families.

"My son Paul and the Pierre family extend our love, hugs and prayers for your great loss of love ones," she said.

"May we all heal together in the grief of our losses but remember to pray for Farmer and those like Farmer that are dealing with addictions, drugs and being victims in a country that is known as First Nations."

Earlier, several members of Chafe's family, including his wife Dr. Lizanne Bussieres, addressed the court in their victim impact statements.

"Ross was a loving husband," said Bussieres. "He was full of energy and always so positive. He loved nature, which was the reason why we moved to Whistler."

Bussieres, a family doctor in Whistler and a former Olympic marathoner, described her husband, also a world-class athlete, as being a devoted father to their three daughters.

"He was so proud of them. It breaks my heart thinking that they will have to grow old without the mentorship of their father."

Crown counsel Adrienne Lee told the judge that the circumstances of the offence were "beyond tragic" and called for denunciation and deterrence.

"Paul Pierre, Kelly Blunden and Ross Chafe lost their lives and while the accused did not mean for them to lose their lives, let me make one thing clear. He meant to drink, he meant to drive. None of this had to happen. The accused is fully and entirely responsible."

Lee said that Alec's lengthy motor vehicle record and criminal record spoke to an "entrenched criminal offender" of almost 29 years.

"That record demonstrates a propensity to drink and drive that cries out for a sentence that will protect the public."

The Crown has called for a prison sentence of 12 years, to be reduced by about two years after Alec receives credit for pre-sentence custody, as well as a driving ban of 15 to 18 years. The hearing continued Wednesday, March 29, with defence submissions.