February 21st, 2024

Man pleads guilty in deadly drunk driving collision


By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on November 30, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A Brocket man who was extremely intoxicated when he smashed into a cattle liner, killing one son and injuring another, has pleaded guilty to three criminal charges and will be sentenced early next year.

Ryan Scott Potts, 39, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Fort Macleod court of justice to charges of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm and driving while prohibited.

Crown Prosecutor Clayton Giles, reading from an agreed statement of facts, told court that about 9 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2022, Potts was driving his van east on Highway 3 in Fort Macleod when he struck the cattle liner as it was crossing the highway to head south on Highway 2. Potts, whose blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit, was travelling 120 km-h in a speed zone, which at that point transitions from 50 km-h to only 70 km-h.

“At the time of the collision road conditions were very poor, with heavy snow and wet roads,” Giles said.

When police arrived, Potts was still trapped in the driver’s seat. His seven-year-old son, who was six at the time, was in critical conditions and sustained facial lacerations, upper jaw fracture, spinal fracture, and internal bleeding. He was released from the hospital on Nov. 2, 2022. Potts’ five-year-old son, who had “lost brain activity” shortly after the collision, was admitted to hospital and died the day before his brother was discharged.

“RCMP observed that the accused was slurring his words and heard the accused admit that he had consumed 26 ounces of vodka earlier in the day,” Giles said. “Police further noted a stale odour of hard liquor coming from the accused’s breath.”

Blood samples were taken at the Chinook Regional hospital, and more than two hours after the collision showed Potts still had 258 milligrams of ethanol alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood. The legal limit is 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

Giles noted that not only was Potts’ vehicle not insured at the time, he was a prohibited driver, stemming from a previous impaired driving conviction. He also has one additional impaired driving conviction on his record, and was further prohibited Wednesday from driving for five years.

The case has been adjourned for a sentencing hearing on Feb. 7, 2024. Justice Kristin Ailsby also ordered a Gladue report, which applies certain principles used by judges at the time of sentencing to help them understand the unique circumstances and experiences of Indigenous people. Those circumstances include challenges, such as racism, loss of language, removal from land, residential schools and foster care, that continue to affect Indigenous people today.

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