A young Alberta man who crashed a stolen car on West Coast Road last April, killing 15-year-old Nicolas Twiddy has been sentenced to three years in a federal penitentiary.
On Tuesday, Judge Anthony Palmer sentenced David James Chiasson to three years in prison for dangerous driving causing death. Palmer also imposed a two-year sentence for dangerous driving causing bodily harm to Maria Forbes and Steve Livingstone. The sentences are to be served concurrently.
The fatal crash happened around 10:15 a.m. on April 9, 2012, just on West Coast Road, west of Sooke, near Park Isle Marine. Chiasson took his friends for a ride in a car they didn’t know was stolen and drove recklessly down the windy road until the speeding car hit a utility pole.
“All the events leading up to this crash is a series of bad choices by Mr. Chiasson,” said Palmer.
Chiasson, 19, who has been in custody since May, was credited with six months time served. This means he must serve a further 30 months in prison. Palmer also imposed a 10-year driving prohibition and ordered Chiasson to give a sample of his DNA.
Outside court, Nicolas’s mother Lisa Twiddy was quickly surrounded and embraced by Nic’s tearful young friends. Twiddy said she was glad Chiasson received the 10-year driving prohibition.
“Ten years, no driving — that’s the best part,” she said, wiping away her own tears.
No prison term will ever be enough to bring back Nicolas, said Twiddy.
“But three years is, I hope, enough time for him be able to get the help that he needs. Because one day he will be released and he needs help.”
Chiasson’s defence lawyer Brad Hickford said the judge recognized it was a tragic set of circumstances where one young person was killed, another seriously injured and another young person in jail who must serve a sentence.
“Judge Palmer also recognized my client’s remorse was genuine and that there is still potential and hope for him and that perhaps he would do better by way of programming available in the federal system. Certainly, it’s not a happy day for anybody and it sends out a strong message about reckless driving,” said Hickford.
Chiasson is very emotional and will need counselling and help in the institution, said the defence lawyer.
“He’s not upset with the sentence. He’s more upset with the fact he can’t go back and change what occurred.”
At the sentencing hearing last month, Crown prosecutor Steve Salmond told the court that at 12:30 a.m. on April 9, Chiasson found an unlocked 1998 Chevrolet Cavalier with keys in the ignition in a Sooke driveway and drove off in it.
Around 10 a.m., Chiasson went to Livingstone’s home where Forbes, Livingstone’s girlfriend, and Twiddy were hanging out. Chiasson told them he had borrowed a friend’s car and suggested they go to the beach.
Chiasson drove to West Coast Road, a windy, two-lane road with a speed limit of 60 kilometre an hour. He passed the driver of a Ford Escape on a double, solid line, heading into a blind curve. As Chiasson tried to get back into his lane, he went too far to the right in the speeding car and ended up on the gravel shoulder.
The car began to rotate, went back across the road and hit a utility pole. The left side of the car — where Twiddy was sitting in the back seat — slammed into the pole.
The pole was sheared off. The car flipped over and came to rest on its roof.
Twiddy was fatally injured. Forbes, who was 15 at the time, was airlifted to hospital. Her injuries included a fractured left cheekbone, an upper jaw fracture, a fractured sternum, multiple fractures of her right pelvis, a first lumbar fracture, two broken ribs, a bruised heart and a bruised left lung and cuts. She also had a concussion and has problems with short-term memory and concentration. Forbes spent one week in hospital and was unable to walk for three months.
Livingstone, who was 18 at the time of the crash, injured his left leg and used a cane for a month. He suffers from depression, anxiety and survivor’s guilt. Like Forbes, he lost his best friend.
On Tuesday, Palmer noted that Chiasson has been convicted of three other offences since the crash. These include selling marijuana to an undercover Victoria police officer, assault with a weapon after bear-spraying a Sooke resident who had words with him about the crash, and assault causing bodily harm to a Corrections officer who was searching his cell for contraband.
Palmer found the mitigating factors to be Chiasson’s early guilty pleas and the fact he accepts responsibility for the losses he has caused. Chiasson has had a difficult life and has no contact with his parents, noted Palmer. He was a disadvantaged youth with a history of abuse and lost a brother to suicide.
“It is not lost on this court that only one letter of support was provided,” said Palmer. “Mr. Chiasson appears to be a young man very much on his own, fending for himself since the age of 13.”
Palmer found the aggravating factors to be Chiasson’s choice to steal a car, that he didn’t tell his friends it was stolen, that he drove while unlicensed and drove in a reckless and dangerous manner with callous disregard for the safety of others.
Although Hickford asked for a sentence of less than two years, Palmer agreed with the Crown that three years was an appropriate sentence.
© Copyright 2013