Sarnia Court heard sentencing submissions Monday in the 2019 Alvinston cemetery crash case.
Ivan Russell, 29 from Oil Springs, plead guilty in December to dangerous driving causing bodily harm. It’s now up to Justice Anne McFadyen whether he will serve his sentence in jail or in the community.
Crown Attorney Melanie Nancekievill says a jail term is necessary and suggested one year behind bars. Defence Attorney Robert DiPietro says allowing Russell to serve his time in the community would be appropriate via a conditional sentence of equal length.
Russell was driving south on Cameron Road shortly after midnight March 2, 2019. His GMC Yukon hit speeds of 165 km/h, more than double the speed limit, when he passed the Alvinston Cemetery and lost control of the vehicle at the curve in the road.
The SUV collided with a hydro pole so savagely that the frame was torn off the chassis and the pole was completely severed. The three passengers were flung along the ground. Russell stayed in the remains of the SUV which then smashed into a tree. The wreckage was so bad Brooke-Alvinston firefighters had to free him with the jaws of life.
Russell’s passengers – a man from Plympton-Wyoming, a man from Dawn-Euphemia, and a woman from Petrolia – were lucky to survive the crash. One man had severe neck and back injuries while the other man had a serious head injury. The woman sustained serious leg injuries that needed surgery.
Nancekievill says all three victims suffered injuries that were “life-altering, catastrophic… The impact is such that lives are forever changed.”
She says crash scene photos were “astounding… It certainly is a wonder that anyone survived this collision.”
Russell also suffered major injuries and says he was initially told he’d never walk again. He’s since had reconstructive surgery done on one knee with surgery on the other pending.
“It’s a quite tragic event. If I could take back what happened I would, no matter what the cost,” says Russell. “We all got thrown quite a hardball here.”
“I’d just like to apologize to everyone and say how sorry I am for everything that’s happened here. I hope that I can gain some forgiveness from this. But I don’t expect it.”
DiPietro says his client was recently diagnosed with epilepsy and that his doctor suggested this may have factored into the crash. DiPietro acknowledged that he had no hard evidence of this however.
The diagnosis has cost Russell his licence though, which is unlikely to be reinstated unless he is somehow cured of his epileptic condition. DiPietro argued that because of this a licence ban wasn’t really necessary.
Nancekievill is seeking a driving ban of three years in addition to however long Russell may spend in jail. She says that if a conditional sentence is chosen it should be in the 18-24 month range instead of 12 months.
McFadyen adjourned the case until July 26 when she'll return with her decision.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent