George Whalen had dozen beer, rum prior to fatal crash, court told

George Whalen had dozen beer, rum prior to fatal crash, court told

A man who pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death in a crash last year had a dozen beer and rum that day, according to an agreed statement of facts.

George Whalen, 67, pleaded guilty to the charge in March, as well as driving while prohibited and leaving the scene of an accident. Jane Newhook, 83, was killed in the crash in Thornlea.

On Monday, Whalen told the family he was sorry for the grief and pain he caused the family, and that he takes full responsibility for his actions.

According to evidence presented in court, Whalen's grandson, a passenger in the van, said Whalen drank a dozen beer at the ballpark, as well as about half a flask of Lamb's rum.

The grandson, 25, also had a dozen beer before the two set out to go to a friend's house on July 8, 2016, when they came to an intersection.

"I told Pop to slam on the brakes because a car was coming. He hit the gas, then boom, next thing I seen glass and everything," read the agreed statement of facts.

Whalen was driving the Dodge Caravan and it collided with the Hyundai Elantra being driven by Newhook.

The elderly woman was pronounced dead at the scene, killed by metal shrapnel that had sprayed inside her car when the airbag's inflator canister blew apart. Her family has launched a lawsuit.

A witness at the scene said Whalen tried to reverse his van after the crash but was unable to dislodge the vehicle.

Walked away with beer

Court documents state that when witnesses told Whalen it appeared the woman he hit was dead, Whalen insisted she was fine. Then he took a case of beer from his van and walked away toward his home.

Whalen later told the officers who found him that he walked away because "it was all too much."

When they searched his car, they found a number of empties, a half-full bottle of beer in the driver's cup holder, and a partially-consumed bottle of Lamb's.

Officers had to help Whalen walk to the awaiting police vehicle. At the detachment, he twice refused a breathalyzer test.

In court Monday, Newhook's daughters entered victim impact statements, describing their grief following their mother's death.

"My mom always ended every telephone conversation with 'I love you, God bless and take care,'" said Ella Ann Penney. "My heart aches knowing I will never hear that voice deliver those words again."

"I stand absolutely shattered," said Melissa Newhook. "My mother's life came at the price of a couple of tossed-back beers and a decision to get behind the wheel. How do you reconcile the beauty of a lifetime bravely and kindly lived, with such a cruel, senseless conclusion?"

Loss for future generations

"I miss her staying with us on stormy days," said Delores Newhook. "I miss picking up the phone and talking to her or just dropping by and visiting with her."

Newhook's daughters also spoke of the loss for the family's younger generations.

"I'm upset that my kids won't get any Nan jam, Nan knits, Nan cinnamon buns, Nan sewing … those things that create memories," wrote Marina Karen Coish, too overcome by emotion to read her statement aloud. "These opportunities are gone."

The Crown is asking for eight to 10 years and a lifetime driving prohibition. The defence is asking for five to six years.