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Teen gets 18 months of probation for operating ATV while drunk

Head-on crash resulted in one fatality and a “permanent disability” for a youth

ATHABASCA – A Calling Lake youth involved in a fatal ATV accident in the summer of 2021 faces a year-and-a-half of probation, plus a 12-month driving ban with the Justice saying “ … we’ve already lost one, and now the idea is to reach out to you in this loss and try and put you back together.”

In Athabasca Court of Justice May 15, Justice Joanne Heudes accepted a joint-sentence submission from Crown prosecutor Anthony Estephan and defence lawyer Harvey Neufeld on 18 months of probation and a year-long driving ban for the teen, highlighting the mandatory therapy and counselling that were included. The youth cannot be named due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Ultimately, the teen pleaded guilty to 320.14 (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, which states in part that the person “has, within two hours after ceasing to operate a conveyance, a blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood.”

“You did everything that every parent worries about; that belief that nothing can happen to you, and that life goes on forever,” said Justice Heudes. “I can see that you’ve suffered for that belief. You’ve lost a friend, you’ve been hurt physically, and you’re carrying adult issues with you at a very young age, which must be hard for you.”

Estephan acknowledged the “unfortunate” nature of the circumstances and the importance of proportionality in the sentence.

“Drinking and driving is a serious problem in our community, and the consequences are sometimes great. Particularly in this case, which resulted in the death of another; this is the epitome case of the dangers of drunk driving. (The youth) had blood alcohol readings that were over the limit, but not aggravating. He was operating not an ordinary vehicle, but an ATV, and it occurred on a secondary highway,” said Estephan.

And while Estephan argued that the youth had a moral culpability, he cited several Gladue Report factors, noting that “we all know how alcohol has plagued Indigenous communities, not only in Calling Lake but across the province.

“There are no aggravating factors, you have no prior record; you’re a good kid,” said Justice Heudes. “There’s nothing otherwise to say that this tragedy was in anyway deserving of either of you. We don’t want to lose two kids in this … we’ve already lost one, and now the idea is to reach out to you in this loss and try and put you back together.”

The facts

Estephan told court that at approximately 11:40 p.m., July 31, 2021, Athabasca RCMP responded to a motor-vehicle collision between two all-terrain vehicles on Park Drive in Calling Lake — two youth were involved and neither was wearing a helmet.

According to the collision investigation report, the ATVs collided “offset to the left,” and “near the centre of the roadway” — both sustained contact damage, and while the headlight casings for both vehicles were undamaged, RCMP were unsure if they had been on at the time of the crash.

Estephan stated that one rider was pronounced dead at the scene — the cause was blunt-force trauma to the head. The other teen was observed laying on the road beside the ATV they had been operating. He fractured his tibia and fibula and was transported to the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton and stay there until August 2021. From there, he was transferred to Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital and remained until February 2022.

Both youth had been observed consuming alcohol prior to the collision — court heard that the deceased had been noted to be extremely intoxicated approximately 10 minutes before the accident occurred. Estephan said that, according to a toxicology report done post-mortem, “substantial levels of alcohol were found in their system.”

RCMP then sought and obtained a production order for the youth’s medical records, from which they were able to extrapolate an estimated blood alcohol concentration, the low end of which was 0.10 — the legal limit is .08.

Cole Brennan,

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