By Peggy Revell
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A man who killed a woman while driving impaired at high speeds near Bow Island last summer was sentenced to three years in jail.
“Courts in Canada have said the carnage caused by impaired driving is simply … unacceptable,” said Judge Gregory Maxwell during the sentencing of Gerhard Friesen, 43, who pled guilty Tuesday at the Medicine Hat Courthouse to impaired driving causing death.
The victim, 62-year-old Karen Yoos of Fort McLeod — was a “pure innocent” said Maxwell, citing victim impact statements that spoke about how Yoos was the mother of a handicapped child who relied on her for care.
It’s impossible to measure the impact of Yoos’ death, said Maxwell.
“Nobody suggests a custodial sentence of three, four, five years can be equated in any sense with the loss of life,” said Maxwell, and that when it comes to court sentencing for impaired driving causing death, the court is in a position where it is impossible to satisfy what most people’s views of justice are.
The joint submission from the Crown and defence — requesting three years jail — falls into the given sentencing range for these sort of crimes, Maxwell said.
The collision occurred on July 18, 2015 on Highway 3, in the County of 40 Mile, where witnesses first encountered Friesen going through a red traffic light — requiring them to slam on the brakes of their vehicle to avoid collision.
Friesen attempted to overtake the witnesses’ vehicle going westbound on the highway — finally succeeding on his third try — and was described as being “all over the road,” swerving into oncoming traffic and onto the highway’s shoulder.
Witnesses were in the process of phoning 911 when Friesen once again swerved into oncoming traffic and collided head on with a black car driven by Yoos.
Yoos was deceased at the scene.
EMS responders said that Friesen’s vehicle smelled of alcohol, as did his breath. Friesen was unconscious at the scene and transported to the Bow Island Hospital with severe injuries.
Police who responded to the scene found red wine splattered around the interior of Friesen’s vehicle, and a Tim Hortons travel mug with red wine in it.
The reconstruction report estimates that Friesen was driving at approximately 126 kilometres per hour when his vehicle hit Yoos’, and that his vehicle was 1.46 metres into the eastbound lane when the collision occurred.
There was no indication that Friesen attempted to brake.
Friesen has no memory of the event, but regrets it, said defence counsel Robert Robbenhaar, noting he has a brain injury and other medical issues stemming from the incident.
Maxwell said calling such a collision an accident is a misuse of the term — it was more a “foregone conclusion” with the nature of the driving witnesses described.