Drunk driver who crossed median gets 16 months in jail for crash

A drunk driver who severely injured two men when he slid into oncoming traffic during a 2012 snowstorm was sentenced to 16 months in jail Thursday.

Steven Garth VanBeek and the two victims were not wearing seatbelts. All suffered devastating injuries.

"There is no doubt that these events have been life altering," provincial court Judge Donna Groves wrote in her sentencing decision. "No sentence imposed by this court could possible repair the damage done to the victims and their families, or instil any satisfaction or comfort. Shy of turning back the clock, much of the damage done is irreparable."

On Jan. 14, 2012, VanBeek was driving southbound on Manning Drive through blowing snow when he lost control of his truck and drove over the median into oncoming traffic. Paul Raymond and passenger William Hilchey were headed northbound and slammed into VanBeek's truck as it spun into their lane.

Raymond suffered a brain injury and broken bones in his face, leg, hip and back. Raymond, who will never fully recover from his brain injury, does not remember the accident.

"It took my husband 11 months to come home to his family and he's still not the same," his wife, Frances Mundy, said outside court. She said her husband has regained roughly three quarters of his mental functions, but may not progress further.

Hilchey, a longtime paraplegic, went into cardiac arrest at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for several minutes before he was resuscitated. Both his legs were broken.

VanBeek also suffered serious injuries.

In November 2013, VanBeek was caught driving drunk and his licence was suspended. Only three weeks after that, he was caught driving while suspended. In a pre-sentence psychiatric report, VanBeek said he did not consider his drinking a problem until well after the crash that injured Raymond and Hilchey.

"It is unfortunate that it took two years and a second impaired driving charge" for VanBeek to recognize his problem, Groves wrote.

VanBeek received concurrent sentences of 16 months after he pleaded guilty to two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm. Once he is released, he will be on probation for two years and banned from driving for five.