VANCOUVER — A British Columbia man who killed two cyclists and a passenger in his own vehicle while driving drunk along a winding, mountain highway north of Whistler has been sentenced to eight years and four months in prison.
Samuel Alec pleaded guilty in B.C. Supreme Court in February to three counts of impaired driving causing death after he mowed down cyclists Ross Chafe and Kelly Blunden who were out for a weekend ride in May 2015. Alec's friend in the passenger seat of the vehicle, Paul Pierre, was also killed.
The court heard that Alec, 46, was returning home to Lillooet along Highway 99 after a "lengthy binge of drinking" following a friend's funeral.
"It was a clear, sunny day. The cyclists were fully within their own lane," Justice William Ehrcke said Friday, reading his decision. "The reason for the accident was that Mr. Alec was impaired by alcohol."
"Mr. Alec was not just impaired. His ability to drive was grossly impaired," Ehrcke added, describing Alec's blood-alcohol level as three times the legal limit.
Alec will remain in prison for a further six years after 28 months of credit is given for time he served awaiting trial. The judge also ordered that Alec be banned from driving for 15 years beyond his sentence.
"The offences you have committed have caused great harm and terrible suffering," the judge told Alec, who breathed deeply and dabbed his eyes with tissue.
Chafe's cousin John Rufh said his family was disappointed with the sentence, calling it "not right."
"We had hoped that we'd get 12, maybe 10 (years). But he got eight, less time served, which is six," said Rufh outside the court, adding that his family will experience a lifetime of pain while Alec is out in just a few years.
"You look in the papers. Someone who deals drugs is getting 18 years. Here's a guy who killed three people and he's getting eight years. What does that say about our society?"
Pierre's younger brother Dion Pierre was also present to hear the judge's ruling and said he was hoping for a higher sentence, but that no length of time would bring his brother back.
"You can't put a value on a loved one," he said outside court. "I miss him. I miss him and I love him and I wish he was here."
The prosecution had asked for a 12-year sentence, while his defence lawyer argued four years would be more appropriate.
At his sentencing hearing last month, Alec tearfully apologized to the families of the men he killed, saying that he would never be able to make up for the pain and suffering he caused after driving into the two cyclists.
"I know I am to blame and I take full responsibility for my actions. I am sorry for what I have done,'' Alec told the court in late March.
Crown prosecutor Adrienne Lee said the sentence was lower than she had hoped but that it was still a significant amount of time.
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Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said he pleaded guilty last month.