Calgary businessman John Torode pleads guilty to drunk-driving crash that injured 2 women

John Torode pleaded guilty to drunk driving causing bodily harm after he was involved in a crash in 2020 which left two women with serious injuries. He was driving the car photographed above. (CBC - image credit)
John Torode pleaded guilty to drunk driving causing bodily harm after he was involved in a crash in 2020 which left two women with serious injuries. He was driving the car photographed above. (CBC - image credit)

Just weeks after pleading guilty to sexual assault, well-known Calgary realtor and developer John Torode has been convicted of drunk driving offences after a head-on crash left two women with serious, lifelong injuries.

Torode, 73, drove the wrong way down on Highway 2 just after midnight on June 12, 2020. His passenger, Chantal Savard, and a woman driving a van were both badly injured.

On Wednesday, provincial court Judge Sandra Mah accepted Torode's plea to impaired driving causing bodily harm. The judge also imposed a joint sentencing submission from defence lawyer Ian Savage and prosecutor Kaitlyn Perrin.

Torode was handed an 18-month conditional sentence order, meaning he gets to serve his sentence at home under conditions including nine months of house arrest and nine months under a curfew. He must also complete 100 hours of community service and is not allowed to drive for three years.

No memory of crash: Torode

Savage explained his client has no memory of the crash and said it's a "mystery" to him why he was driving northbound near Okotoks.

The defence lawyer told the judge Torode has experienced memory loss and cognitive decline for the last four years.

Three victim impact statements were delivered in court on Wednesday. The driver of the van wrote that she can no longer work and continues to suffer from a traumatic brain injury, PTSD and anxiety.

Savard was 25-years-old at the time of the crash. She met Torode that night at a restaurant in Calgary and has no memory of how she ended up in his vehicle on the outskirts of town.

Both Savard and her mother both read aloud victim impact statements.

Brigitte Savard said her daughter's injuries made her "unrecognizable" in hospital.

Savard suffered a broken hip, fractured pelvis, liver laceration, collapsed lung and required surgeries.

Chantal Savard
Chantal Savard

When Savard's parents were told of the crash, they drove to the hospital believing they would be saying their goodbyes.

Savard said the night of the accident rewrote her "entire future."

"I've had to grieve and accept my new body," she said. "I'm in pain every day but I live my life with a grateful heart."

Meghan Grant/CBC
Meghan Grant/CBC

Just weeks ago, Torode pleaded guilty to sexual assault involving a woman on June 11, 2020.

According to the facts read aloud in court by the prosecution, Torode and a friend joined the woman and her friend at a table in a restaurant and bought them a bottle of wine. Torode then grabbed the victim's breast.

Torode was handed a conditional discharge and a one-year probationary period. That means although a finding of guilt was made, if Torode abides by the conditions of his probation for a year, a conviction will not be registered.

The conditions include a written apology to the victim, counselling and 20 hours of community service.

Head-on crash

Just after midnight on June 12, 2020, hours after the sexual assault, Torode had a different woman in the passenger seat of his car.

Torode, who had been drinking, was driving the wrong way down Highway 2, according to an agreed statement of facts (ASF), read aloud in court by Perrin, the prosecutor.

RCMP were called to reports of a Jaguar sedan driving northbound in the southbound lanes near Okotoks.

When officers responded to the call, they came across a crash scene involving Torode's car and a van.

The car, a Jaguar, hit the van — which was travelling at 110 km/h — head-on and there was no evidence Torode attempted to brake, according to the ASF.

Officers noted Torode's speech was slurred and he admitted he had been drinking.

Passenger air lifted to hospital 

Torode's passenger was breathing but non-responsive and was airlifted to hospital from the crash scene.

The driver of the van suffered a broken hand, concussion and lacerations to her leg.

Three blood alcohol tests confirmed Torode had been driving drunk at the time of the crash, although the levels were not detailed in the facts presented in court.

"The accused admits his ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol at the time of the collision," reads the ASF.

Torode expresses regret, not remorse

Before he was sentenced, Torode was given the chance to speak and expressed regret but did not apologize.

"I regret this incident and I am certainly paying better attention ," said Torode.

"It was bad judgment on my part."

Torode is a real estate developer in Calgary who has been responsible for projects such as Hotel Arts and has served on the boards of Theatre Calgary, Calgary Centre for Performing Arts, Calgary Philharmonic, Calgary Opera and Theatre Junction.