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Trucker gets three years for teen deaths in construction zone

Saskatchewan accident in 2015 also seriously injured flag worker


MELFORT, Sask. (The Canadian Press) — A judge who sent a truck driver to prison on Monday for speeding through a construction zone and killing three teenagers said no sentence can relieve the overwhelming pain felt by their families.

Normand Lavoie received three years for each of the deaths he caused in May 2015, when his semi rear-ended the car the teens were in on their way home from football camp. He also was sentenced to a year for seriously injuring a flag worker.

The sentences are to be served concurrently.

“There is no remedy for the total destruction caused as a result of Normand Lavoie’s inattention, for whatever reason, as he drove his huge semi-trailer through the construction zone on that fateful day over two years ago,” Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Mona Dovell said.

“There is really nothing that the court can do to remedy what has happened. It cannot be remedied.”

Dovell said she was very much aware of the families’ pain.

“But as we all know, the one thing all of you really want — being the return of Carter, Kristian and Justin — just cannot happen.”

Carter Stevenson, 17, Kristian Skalicky, 15, and Justin Gaja, 14, were heading home when their car stopped behind a pickup truck in a construction zone near Spalding, Sask.

Both vehicles had been stopped by flag person Samuel Fetherston.

In an agreed statement, court heard that Lavoie’s semi hit the teens’ car and the impact smashed it into a pickup truck. The truck was pushed across the road, where it struck Fetherston.

The three teens from Carrot River, Sask. all died upon impact. Fetherston is still recovering from his injuries.

Lavoie said he was tired and on “autopilot” because of the flat Saskatchewan landscape.

He also said he didn’t recall seeing six signs about the upcoming construction zone and warning drivers to slow down. The semi was travelling at a minimum of 84 km/h, court heard.

“You’re keeping the thing on the road,” Lavoie told an RCMP officer after the crash. “You’re just kind of in la la land. Basically, I’m there behind the wheel, but I’m not.”

Lavoie, who is 41 and from Winnipeg, pleaded guilty in May to three counts of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

He won’t be allowed to drive for five years after he’s released from prison.

Lavoie, a married father of three, admitted that he was tired that day, but was adamant that he had not fallen asleep. After the crash, he was diagnosed with sleep apnea and post-traumatic stress disorder. He also said he had contemplated suicide.

Dovell noted that alcohol was not a factor, that Lavoie was a low risk to reoffend and that he’s “extremely remorseful for the catastrophic situation he has caused as a result of his unexplained inattentiveness.”

Court also learned last month that Lavoie’s mother and grandmother were killed in a truck-driving crash when he was 18 and he had used their deaths as motivation to become a safe truck driver.

At his sentencing hearing in August, Lavoie said he had “failed catastrophically” in that goal.

“Your boys, from what I heard, were wonderful boys, and there’s not a day that goes by that doesn’t hurt me,” he said. “Every night I spend, I can barely sleep at night. And all I think of, all I see was that accident.”

The families declined to comment on the sentence. However, they gave emotional victim impact statements to the court in August.

Justin’s mother, Crystal Gaja, said she still stands at her kitchen window and watches for her son to come home for lunch.

“Losing my son is not a wound that time heals. It is a life sentence,” she said.

“The day that I now look forward to is the day that I take my last breath here on Earth. Because that will be the only day that all the pain, tears, sadness and sorrow will finally be gone, forever.”

Copyright (c) 2017 The Canadian Press