Ngan Nguyen and Jared Youzwa were killed when the motorcycle they were riding was struck by a van driver who ran a stop sign in July 2013. (SUBMITTED)
The families of a man and woman killed when the motorcycle they were riding collided with a van that ran a stop sign aren’t happy with Crown and defence lawyers who recommend fines, instead of jail, for the offending driver.
In particular, the families of Jared Youzwa and Ngan Nguyen say they aren’t pleased that the Crown isn’t seeking jail or probation.
"We’d like jail time, or probation at a minimum," Youzwa’s sister, Nicole Youzwa, said following court on Thursday.
Shawn Bradley Dreveski pleaded guilty in Brandon provincial court to two counts of careless driving causing death under the Highway Traffic Act.
Crown attorney Marnie Evans then agreed to stay two counts of dangerous driving causing death under the Criminal Code.
While dangerous driving causing death under the Criminal Code carries a possible prison term up to 14 years, the HTA section Dreveski pleaded guilty to still allows a jail sentence of up to two years.
Instead, Evans and defence lawyer Ryan Fawcett both recommended fines to Judge Donovan Dvorak. Evans cited Dreveski’s lack of prior related criminal and driving records as part of the reason she recommended unspecified high fines and a lengthy driving ban.
After court, Evans stood by the decision to drop the Criminal Code charges, and the decision to seek fines and a driving prohibition instead of jail or probation.
The Crown decided that, given the facts and case law and other factors, there was no liklihood of conviction for the Criminal Code charges, which come with a different standard of proof. The facts, Dreveski’s record, and case law also determined the Crown’s decision not to seek jail or probation.
"That was the position that we considered to be appropriate," Evans said.
She said a driving prohibition and fine are stronger deterrents than probation, and more appropriate for a driving offence.
The following facts of the tragic crash were shared in court, but Dvorak reserved his decision and a date to continue sentencing has yet to be set.
Youzwa, 26, and Nguyen, 25, were killed by a collision in the mid-afternoon of July 12, 2013.
Dreveski was driving a van south on Highway 270 when he fell asleep and failed to halt at a stop sign at the intersection with the Trans-Canada Highway.
Witnesses said Dreveski’s van didn’t stop at all and passed through the stop sign around 20 km/h and into the intersection.
Youzwa, who was driving a Harley-Davidson motorcycle west along the Trans-Canada Highway, with Nguyen riding as a passenger behind him, couldn’t avoid the van and hit it near the driver’s door.
Youzwa and Nguyen were thrown from the motorcycle and the van came to a stop when it entered the ditch and hit a pole. Dreveski was taken to hospital with a broken arm.
Fawcett explained that Dreveski was left homeless after an apartment fire and had been sleeping in the back of his small SUV in the week leading up to the crash.
Dreveski, a delivery driver at the time, was exhausted on the afternoon of the crash as he returned home to Brandon from a run to Shoal Lake. Along the way he pulled over at Newdale and Rivers to rest.
He also called his boss to tell him he was tired, but when his boss told him to "do what he can," Dreveski opted to finish his work and travelled along back roads to avoid heavy traffic.
Dreveski doesn’t remember much of the crash, Fawcett said — just the squealing of tires, the rev of an engine and a futile effort to turn the wheel of the van.
Fawcett said Dreveski’s actions weren’t criminal, but his client is sorry. Dreveski told court that he cries himself to sleep each night.
"Fines imposed should not be seen as putting a price on lives lost, but to appropriately punish this individual in these circumstances," Fawcett said.
A 35-year-old father of three, who was born and raised in Brandon, Dreveski has a previous assault conviction but no criminal record related to driving. His driving record includes a fine for failing to yield at a pedestrian crossing, an offence committed before the crash.
In court, Nicole Youzwa described her brother and his girlfriend, Nguyen, as beautiful, intelligent people who had a lot of love to offer the world. They’d dreamed of marrying and raising children close to their families.
Both families and their friends still struggle with the couple’s death, she said.
"This is a nightmare that never ends," Youzwa said, adding she would sentence Dreveski to the maximum sentence possible if it were up to her.
"I cannot help but feel that Jared and Ngan were given a death sentence, and we were given a life sentence."
Youzwa said that her brother and Nguyen, were on their way to a wedding in Dysart, Sask. at the time of the crash.
Jared, who was from East Selkirk, helped his parents run the family’s business, Custom One Cycle in Selkirk. Nguyen was born and raised in Winnipeg and helped manage her family’s chain of four Aloha Nails locations.
"Everyone loved her, she was very smart," her sister Nhi said. "Family was really important to her. She was just the person that everyone went to when they needed help."
Youzwa and Nguyen were buried together in East Selkirk.
After hearing the courtroom account of what happened, Nicole questioned the decision to drop the dangerous driving causing death charges under the Criminal Code.
She said the fact that Dreveski paused to rest twice, and took back roads, shows that he knew he shouldn’t have been driving and his decision was more than a momentary lapse of judgment.
» Twitter: @IanHitchen
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 11, 2014