A Vernon mother of four was sentenced to four years in jail for a bad decision to get behind the wheel of her minivan after a night out on the town.
Lori Victoria Vance, 39, was sentenced in Vernon Provincial Court Monday afternoon by Judge Richard Hewson after pleading guilty in the morning to impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm.
Vance will serve three years for impaired driving causing death and one year for impaired driving causing bodily harm, to be served concurrently.
Vance was behind the wheel of a minivan that went through a red light in downtown Vernon and t-boned a car carrying two on-duty Vernon Jubilee Hospital Nurses, Erin Smith and Lindsay Hauck, who were on a coffee break, at the intersection of 30th Avenue and 32nd Street shortly after 1:15 a.m. Oct. 23, 2014.
Smith was killed and Hauck was seriously injured.
Crown counsel Iain Currie sought a sentence of two-to-four years while defence lawyer Wade Jenson asked Hewson to consider a charge of two years less a day.
Currie said in his sentencing submission that Vance had been with a friend at the Village Green Hotel the night of the accident and had been served as many as four shooters and five-to-six beers between 8:30 p.m. and midnight. He also said a server at the hotel bar recommended Vance call a driving service.
Vance failed an immediate roadside breath test, and Currie said blood samples taken at VJH showed her calculated blood-alcohol limit to be between .181 and .202, both more than twice the legal limit.
Currie said a traffic reconstructionist’s report showed Vance’s speed limit to be between 85 and 98 kilometres per hour at impact, though Jenson countered by saying his client’s speed was between 70 and 75 km/h. The posted speed limit on 30th Street is 50 km/h. The nurse’s car was said to be going between 40 and 56 km/h.
There were angry outbursts during the morning proceedings from Smith’s parents, Brian and Michelle.
Michelle Smith was upset she couldn’t hear the proceedings very well and vocalized her displeasure. After a couple of warnings from Hewson and the sheriff, she stormed out of the courtroom, but not before shouting “Our daughter was murdered (pointing at Vance) and we’re not allowed to give a victim statement. Go to hell.”
She did return to the proceedings.
Brian Smith was upset his victim impact statement had been edited considerably by Crown counsel. Given a chance to read his edited version to the court – and encouraged to do so by Hewson – he originally declined.
“This is a joke,” he said. “It’s censorship and I don’t want to be a party to it.”
After the morning break and a talk with a police officer, Smith accepted the chance to again read his statement, one of five presented by Currie to Hewson.
“The hurt and the pain still linger,” said Smith. “She was our purpose in life. Her life has been reduced to memories that, over time, will fade. We are so thankful for the time we had with her.”
Jenson said Vance – a former law office employee, bookkeeper and administrative assistant for a Vernon driving school, whose kids are aged between six and 18 – takes full responsibility for her actions.
He gave his client a chance to address the court and a packed gallery, though Smith’s parents had left the room before Vance offered a tearful apology.
“I’ve had nearly three years to think about this and there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t see Erin’s and Lindsay’s faces and wonder how this happened,” said Vance, who had no prior criminal or driving record.
“There is no way to express how very sorry I am and how this has affected every person in this room. I can’t apologize enough for the lives I’ve ruined. I despise myself for the loss and hurt I’ve caused. My children have to live with this, too.”