By Delon Shurtz on November 27, 2020.
A southern Alberta man who injured himself and two others in a horrendous drunk-driving collision more than two years ago won’t be sent to a federal prison, but he will have to spend time in jail.
Lethbridge Crown prosecutor Dawn Janeke had recommended Ryan Christopher Hartwick be sentenced to 24 months in a federal penitentiary. However, during a sentencing hearing in Lethbridge provincial court she suggested the sentence could go as low as 18 months.
Defence, on the other hand, was seeking a sentence of nine months, plus probation for two years.
Judge Sylvia Oishi sentenced Hartwick to 18 months in jail, followed by two years of probation. She also agreed with the Crown’s recommendation for a three-year driving prohibition.
Hartwick, 45, pleaded guilty in July to two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, but his sentencing hearing was adjourned to allow time for the preparation of a pre-sentence report and psychological assessment.
Hartwick was driving north of Raymond on Highway 845 at about 11:30 p.m. June 24, 2018, when he drove into the opposing lane as he approached Highway 4 and collided with another car, injuring the driver.
A witness told police he was travelling about six car lengths behind the victim’s vehicle and saw Hartwick’s car, which appeared to be going too fast as it approached a curve in the road, cross the road and strike the other vehicle. Another witness also saw Hartwick’s vehicle veer into the other lane and hit a Chrysler Pacifica minivan head-on.
Hartwick had consumed “five beers total” while he was in Raymond, the last of which he drank about 30 minutes before the accident. Medical personnel at the Chinook Regional Hospital took samples of Hartwick’s blood, which showed the amount of alcohol in his blood to be nearly three times the legal limit.
Hartwick had to be extricated from the vehicle by emergency personnel, and he, as well as his passenger and the driver of the other vehicle, were taken to hospital. Hartwick’s passenger sustained several injuries, including head trauma, a punctured lung, and multiple fractures. She still feels some pain and has not recovered full mobility. The woman driving the other vehicle, who attended Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, also sustained multiple fractures.
Hartwick, who sat in the courtroom listening to the Crown as she described the injuries he caused, occasionally wiped tears from his face, and near the conclusion of the hearing apologized for his actions.
“I know there’s nothing I can ever say to make up for what I’ve done,” he said.
Hartwick had originally pleaded not guilty to several charges, and during his trial challenged the warrant used to seize blood samples. The judge ruled the blood analysis admissable, and the hearing was adjourned to set dates to continue the trial. During the adjournment however, defence decided to change pleas.
Calgary lawyer Jeanine Zahara told court that although the consequences of Hartwick’s actions were severe and warrant a custodial sentence, she argued nine months in jail would be appropriate given the challenges he has faced in his life.
“I do think this is an exceptional set of circumstances,” she said.
She pointed out both Hartwick’s parents were alcoholics, and his father died when he was only 17 years old. His mother died in 2018, and although Hartwick had been sober for seven years by that point, he fell off the wagon. One week after his mother’s funeral, on the day of the collision, he made the “horrible” decision to drink and drive.
“He worked so hard to get his life back, then on one day all of that went away for him,” Zahara said.
She added Hartwick hasn’t consumed alcohol since, and he continues to attend Alcoholics Anonymous.
Follow @DShurtzHerald on Twitter