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Woman fined and prohibited from driving for one year after fatal Malahat crash

A Victoria woman responsible for a fatal crash on the Malahat three years ago has been fined $1,000 and prohibited from driving for a year.

Sara Thomas, 32, pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention in a construction zone on Highway 1 in the early afternoon of June 9, 2018. The collision took the life of David Tilley, 46, and injured his wife, Justine.

Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes accepted a joint submission by Crown and defence, finding that Thomas’s expressions of remorse and regret significantly mitigating.

Thomas was driving north in a 2017 Dodge Caravan. Tilley, a chartered professional accountant who had just been promoted to director at Telus in Vancouver three days earlier, was driving south in a 2007 Honda CRV. He and his wife were celebrating the promotion with a trip to Vancouver Island.

Thomas was driving 100 km/h, significantly above the posted speed limit of 60 km/h, but so were all the other drivers heading north, Holmes noted.

A brown truck, travelling north ahead of Thomas’s van, crossed into the oncoming lane, and then onto the shoulder of that lane and then off the highway up a side street or driveway. Thomas’s van also crossed over the solid double line and hit Tilley’s Honda. Tilley was pronounced dead at the scene.

Paramedics said Thomas had an odour of alcohol on her breath, but the Crown did not allege that she had been drinking that day.

The effects of Tilley’s death are profound and wide-ranging, said Holmes. Tilley’s wife and other family members and friends. are devastated. Employees at Telus, where he was a considered a rising star, still feel profound loss. A memorial scholarship has been set up in his name. “All members of the community suffer when an individual loses his life as a result of events that simply should not have happened. The community’s sense of security is severely damaged,” said Holmes.

Justine Tilley sustained injuries to her ribs, a broken arm and other injuries to her arm, hand and elbow.

“She lost her spouse, partner and best friend but also her care­giver, who helped her through a serious medical crisis that has also left her needing care on an ongoing basis,” said Holmes.

In her victim-impact statement, Justine Tilley noted the collision has damaged her relationship with her husband’s family, a relationship she values.

Lawyer Scott Sheets, who is representing Thomas, told the court Thomas has no recollection of how or why the collision took place. She was rendered unconscious.

Thomas, 32, was raised in a First Nations’ community between Crofton and Chemainus. Her parents and grandparents attended residential school. She witnessed excessive alcohol consumption as a child and trauma from the death of a five-year-old sibling who was killed by an impaired driver. Another brother took his own life in 2010.

Thomas developed a relationship with an older man and had a child when she was young. She now lives on a reserve in Victoria and works at the Saanich Education Centre. She has been attending college online and is a cultural dancer. At the time of the crash, Thomas was in an emotional state after being tossed out in an extremely abusive way by her partner and told to leave and kill herself “like her brother,” said Sheets.

A 2020 report by the B.C. Coroners Service found Thomas’s speed contributed to the severity of the collision, but there was no physical or eyewitness evidence to indicate that her van was out of control. The report found the van’s entry into the southbound lane was a result of “non-cognitive driving actions such as medical distress, fatigue, distracted driving or impairment.”

She has six months to pay the fine.

ldickson@timescolonist.com