A driver responsible for a horrific double-fatal crash on a B.C. highway five years ago has been sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for drugged driving causing death.
Cole Kenneth Archibald MacDonald, now 37 years old, was also handed a 10-year driving ban during a sentencing hearing on June 22 in B.C. Supreme Court in Dawson Creek, B.C.
“These cases are tragic because there is nothing the Court can do to undo, compensate for, or remedy the profound harm that Mr. MacDonald has so obviously caused to two families. I recognize that, to the victims’ family members and, indeed, to many members of society, any sentence may seem inadequate,” Justice Michael Brundrett said during sentencing.
MacDonald was convicted in January of two counts of impaired driving causing the deaths of Danielle Hill, 26, and Shawn Taylor, 43.
The reasons for judgment were published on the BC Court’s website this week and outline the details of the impaired driving crash that claimed two lives, and the fallout since the tragedy occurred.
On June 24, 2016, at approximately 10:50 a.m. on a bright and sunny day, MacDonald’s 2015 Ram pickup truck, travelling eastbound towards Dawson Creek on Highway 97, crossed the solid double yellow line and collided head-on with a Honda Civic driven by Hill, who was travelling westbound.
Hill and Taylor, who was in the passenger seat, were killed on impact. The damage to the front of Hill’s Honda Civic was described as “catastrophic.”
An investigation determined MacDonald wasn’t speeding at the time of the collision, but he was impaired by drugs.
Analysis of blood and urine samples taken from MacDonald at the hospital confirmed high levels of benzodiazepines and a trace amount of fentanyl in his system.
Witnesses said MacDonald had consumed “substantial amounts” of valium pills overnight and that he was highly intoxicated when he left his girlfriend’s home in the morning. She begged him not to drive.
Victim impact statements were read during the sentencing hearing, depicting the devastating impact of the offences on the victims’ families.
Hill was the mother of two daughters, now 11 and 13, and an aunt as well. Taylor, who is from Prince Edward Island and had only recently moved to British Columbia, had a son.
“Three children lost a parent as a result of Mr. MacDonald’s needless actions,” the judgment stated.
Hill’s mother and brother reported that the death has affected the children deeply, leaving them and the rest of the family with feelings of sadness, depression, anger and loss.
The children’s performance in school has suffered. Hill was described as the glue that held the family together.
Taylor’s sister, Christine, indicated that the loss “destroyed our entire family” and resulted in tremendous family strain and grief.
She stated that she “lost her best friend and will never be the same.”
The maximum available sentence for impaired driving causing death is life imprisonment.
The Crown sought a sentence of six years while defence argued for a sentence of three years in prison.
While MacDonald said he did not intend to kill anyone, Justice Brundrett expressed little sympathy.
“Mr. MacDonald made a deliberate decision to excessively consume valium, and he made a deliberate decision to drive, thereby putting others at risk. The law demands that people take responsibility for their consumption of drugs or alcohol and for their assumption of risk through their reckless choice to get behind the wheel while intoxicated,” the judge stated.
The 4.5-year prison sentence for each count of impaired driving causing death will be served at the same time.
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