In the flash of a moment, four friends vacationing in the Okanagan had their lives changed forever when a vehicle careened into their path on a beautiful summer day in Oliver on July 21, 2017.
What was supposed to be a nice drive along Vaseux Lake instantly turned into a nightmare for Laurie and Warren Hamm, and their friends Charles De Grout and Susan Carly.
The crash left Victoria native Laurie Hamm a quadriplegic.
Silous Paul, the man who caused this carnage, was in Penticton Supreme Court on Friday to be sentenced. Now 22, he will serve nine months in jail, followed by one year of probation, including a three-year driving ban, for four counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
The other couple in the vehicle will sustain lifelong pain.
The court heard heartbreaking victim impact statements from all of the victims and the Hamm children.
“This selfish act changed our lives forever. Now my wife has no use of her legs, limited use of her arms, no bladder or bowel control,” said Warren. “I’ve become a full-time caregiver. I am reminded daily that I will never have a relationship with my wife again.”
When the crash happened, Laurie could be heard saying, ‘I can’t move.’
She screamed out, “God, don’t let me be paralyzed,” De Grout recalled.
Susan Carly was unable to breathe from the impact to her chest. By a miracle, someone had oxygen that was provided to Susan until emergency responders arrived. Warren was also injured.
“It was pandemonium,” De Grout recalled. “By then, the other vehicle had caught fire and I was trapped. My ankle was jammed under the gas pedal. They had to use the Jaws of Life to get me out. Lives ruined from one selfish act.”
The court learned that Paul had been partying in Osoyoos that night, but the next morning he got word his cousin in Penticton had just committed suicide.
Grief-stricken, he drove his Chrysler 300, dangerously overtaking cars to get to Penticton when he took a sharp corner too fast, crossing into oncoming traffic and then crashing violently into the Hamm and De Grout vehicle.
De Grout said Warren and Laurie were healthy, well-liked teachers who had just retired and were looking forward to golfing and other activities.
Kaitlan Hamm said there has not been a single moment of joy in three years for her parents.
“The life she had planned has all been taken away from her now. She was fiercely independent and now she needs help to take a sip of water or move hair from her face.
In her sentencing, Justice Beames said the harm done is “incalculable” all from a “thoughtless and selfish act.
The judge also ordered Paul to watch a video the Hamm family made called “A Day in the Life of Laurie.”
She ordered Paul to write an essay on the video and the harm he has caused, and submit it to his probation officer.
She also ordered him to serve 50 hours of community service, hopefully to be done in a rehab centre so he understands the harm he caused.