Nova Scotia drunk driver who killed friend in Edmonton crash sentenced to 20 months in jail

by Tony Blais

An apologetic Nova Scotia man who took the life of a good friend in a deadly Edmonton collision while driving drunk and speeding has been put behind bars.

Ryan Richard Wilneff, 31, was handed a 20 month jail term, to be followed by 12 months on probation, on Oct. 4 after earlier pleading guilty in provincial court to impaired driving causing death.

Wilneff, who apologized in court and said he thinks about what he did every day, was also banned from driving for three years.

In a pre sentence report, Wilneff said he regrets the death of Jacey Cox "terribly" and defence lawyer Anthony Vretenar told court his client is aware he has handed his friend's family a "life sentence."

Vretenar also told court Cox's family has been supportive of Wilneff and are pleased he has since turned his life around.

According to an agreed statement of facts, Wilneff was driving "at a high rate of speed" north on Gateway Boulevard, between 51 and 61 avenues, about 2 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2014, when he lost control as the road curved and smashed into the cement wall of a business.

Court heard Wilneff went over the curb, struck a real estate sign, then a light standard and then a tree, before going through a commercial strip mall and crashing into a cinderblock wall belonging to Minuteman Press.

Firefighters extracted both Wilneff and Cox, who was in the passenger seat, from the Jeep and took them to University Hospital, where Cox was declared dead at 3:37 a.m.

Wilneff, who suffered numerous fractured bones and a bruised lung in the collision, discharged himself from the hospital two days later and took off. He was nabbed in Grande Prairie on May 1, 2014.

Blood tests done in hospital revealed Wilneff had a blood alcohol level of .18, or more than double the legal limit.

Following the death, an obituary for Cox, who was from Shelburne, N.S., said he was a "generous man who loved his family and friends and would do anything for them." He was also remembered as "the definition of loyalty."

Wilneff was given four months credit for time spent in pre trial custody, leaving him 16 months still to serve. While on probation, he must refrain from alcohol and drugs and take substance abuse treatment.