Alberta man pleads guilty in fatal crash

Supreme Court Justice Patrice Abrioux will sentence an Alberta man Wednesday for the death of Williams Lake's Kyle Vigeant.

Supreme Court Justice Patrice Abrioux will sentence an Alberta man Wednesday for the death of Williams Lake’s Kyle Vigeant and the serious injury of Joseph Morey.

Kurtis James Roby, 23, of Grande Prairie, pleaded guilty in Williams Lake Supreme Court Monday two years after a vehicle he was driving on Chimney Lake Road June 24, 2013, crashed and left Vigeant  dead and another Williams Lake man, Morey, paralyzed from the waist down.

Roby entered guilty pleas to three charges including dangerous driving causing death, dangerous driving causing bodily harm and failing to stop at the scene of an accident. He was originally also charged with theft over $5,000 and possession of stolen property over $5,000.

On Monday, Justice Abrioux heard a recount of events from Crown Counsel Sabena Thompson following Roby’s guilty plea.

Thompson said Roby visited Williams Lake in the spring of 2013 when on June 23, 2013, he and two friends picked up Vigeant and Morey in what was later discovered to be a stolen Dodge Ram pickup truck, purchased alcohol, then travelled to a campsite at Chimney Lake before deciding to return to Williams Lake at around midnight.

As the five men travelled back to town, Thompson said Roby was driving up to speeds of 164 kilometres per hour when he lost control and crashed down a 20-foot embankment and rolled several times near Brunson Lake.

Witnesses nearby heard the collision and called out to the victims before Roby and one of the other passengers in the vehicle fled the scene by stealing a white Toyota pickup from a nearby residence.

Another passenger of the truck stayed with Morey, who was 21 at the time, to tend to his injuries. Vigeant, also 21 at the time, was found deceased some time later roughly 50 metres away from the scene with the help of a police dog.

Roby, meanwhile, continued back to Williams Lake where they were arrested near the Tourism Discovery Centre after again fleeing from police. Roby was apprehended hiding in the shed of a nearby mobile home with the assistance of a police dog and, initially, lied to police about his name.

Thompson said RCMP did not detect any signs of impairment on Roby at that point.

Roby has been in custody since the incident took place.

On Monday during Roby’s guilty plea and sentencing hearing, defence lawyer Geneviéve Eliany proposed a sentence of time served, while Thompson argued for a five-year sentence.

“This [fleeing the scene] was not a decision that resulted in personal panic,” Thompson said. “It was calculated to escape criminal and civil liability.”

In presenting her case for time served, Eliany said Roby, who has a past criminal record, has matured drastically in the last two years.

“No sentence, ultimately, will feel just to the families,” Eliany said. “Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is ill-suited to representing these types of cases. The fact he [Roby] didn’t appear intoxicated, perhaps his consumption of alcohol wasn’t as high as we may think.”

In the eyes of the court, Roby has served the equivalent of three years and 70 days in custody.

On Monday, Roby spoke to Vigeant and Morey’s families during the sentencing hearing.

“I don’t want your forgiveness, I just want you to know I’m sorry,” he said. “It was a terrible mistake and it shouldn’t have happened.”

Since the crash, the court heard that Morey continues to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is confined to his bed as a paraplegic, requiring regular medevacs to Vancouver for treatment.

Vigeant, meanwhile, was described by Thompson as someone who would always go out of his way for the underdog.

“Kyle was very energetic and loved sports,” she said, noting Vigeant played hockey, refereed hockey and played rep soccer while in high school. “He loved mentoring younger people and loved to referee.”

She said Vigeant had indicated at one point he wanted to pursue a career in sports medicine, however, had been working at a local gas station when the incident occurred.

“He loved the outdoors,” she said. “He enjoyed camping, fishing and hunting. His other passion was a Mustang he was rebuilding.”

Kyle’s father, Cyril Vigeant, also read his emotional victim impact statement to Justice Abrioux.

“The loss of my son Kyle was the most tragic event I’ve experienced in my life,” Cyril said. “Not a day passes that I’ve not felt pain in my heart.

“That branch of my family tree will not grow anymore. All I have now are memories we shared together and I’m aware there will be no more to be made.”

Justice Abrioux will make his sentencing decision at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, Aug. 26, in Williams Lake Supreme Court.