RED DEER, Alta. - Tears flowed freely in an Alberta courtroom Friday as a man who killed four foreign workers while driving the wrong way on a divided highway was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison.
Tyler Stevens wept, apologized and offered to help the victims' families in any way he can — including paying tuition for their children.
"I am so sorry for the pain I have caused all of them," said Stevens, who added that although he is not a religious man, he has been to the site of the crash and has prayed for the victims.
"All that I ask is that the families would give me the chance to be there for them."
The 30-year old part-owner of an international oilfield service company earlier pleaded guilty to four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. After his release from prison, he will also be prohibited from driving for six years.
Stevens, who tested at more than three times the legal limit, admitted to drinking 11 ounces of hard liquor while on prescription drugs last March.
He told court he doesn't remember the crash, in which his SUV slammed head on into a rental vehicle carrying five friends and co-workers from the Philippines.
Their trip had started as a celebration of sorts. The sole survivor, Josephine Tamondong, had just earned her permanent resident status and wanted to cross the United States border to get her papers stamped.
Anthony Castillon, 35, Joey Mangonon, 35, and Josefina Velarde, 52, worked with Tamondong in housekeeping at the Coast Edmonton Plaza hotel. Eden Biazon, 39, was Tamondong's roommate and worked for a cleaning service.
None of them had family in Canada and sent earnings home to relatives in the Philippines. Biazon and Velarde were both married, each with one child. Mangonon was married with four children, the youngest a new baby boy he had never met.
Tamondong said she was the first of her friends to get permanent resident status and they all offered to take the border trip with her to celebrate.
Tamondong, along with relatives of friends' families, wiped away tears as they read victim impact statements to the court.
She described the guilt she feels at having survived the crash, saying that while her physical injuries were serious it's been the emotional pain that's been the hardest to bear.
Several of those who gave victim impact statements came from the Philippines to do so. One young man said in his statement that he prays all the time, asking God why his mother had to die.
Members of Stevens's family also cried in the courtroom, especially after Stevens' lawyer Ian Savage said his client's life will never be the same again.
Crown prosecutor Ander Quist said while Stevens is not a murderer, he did kill four human beings in a criminal act that "goes beyond reckless and it goes beyond stupid."
"He wants to do whatever he can in any small way to repair some of these torn dreams," Quist told reporters outside court.
The divorced father of two had been at a family birthday party prior the crash. He has previously said the last thing he remembered was leaving a bar in Innisfail, Alta.
He drove 24 kilometres the wrong way down the highway, at times swerving wildly, but mostly driving on the shoulder of the road.
Two other motorists, one an off-duty police officer, tried to flash their high-beams to alert oncoming traffic of the danger ahead.
An agreed statement of facts submitted to the judge said Stevens, who had no previous criminal record, refused a breathalyzer test after the crash. But a blood test revealed his high blood alcohol level.
The document said Stevens was taking an antibiotic to treat pain for a cyst in his back. His doctor had never told him not to take it with alcohol but he had blacked out before when he combined the two.
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For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: Automatic criminal charge
For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: Immediate licence suspension which is sustained until criminal charge is resolved.
For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: 2nd charge: sustained licence suspension, 7- day vehicle seizure, "Impact" course.
For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: 1st charge: sustained licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure, "Planning Ahead" course.
For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: 3rd charge: sustained licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, "Impact" course.
For drivers with blood alcohol over .08: Mandatory ignition interlock after criminal conviction - 1 year for 1st conviction; 3 years for 2nd conviction; 5 years for 3rd conviction.
For drivers with Blood Alcohol .05 to .08: 1st offence - Immediate 3-day licence suspension and 3-day vehicle seizure.
For drivers with Blood Alcohol .05 to .08: 2nd offence - Immediate 15-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, "Planning Ahead" course.
For drivers with Blood Alcohol .05 to .08: 3rd offence - Immediate 30-day licence suspension, 7-day vehicle seizure, "Impact" course.
For new (GDL) drivers with blood alcohol over .00: GDL driver found with any blood alcohol - Immediate 30-day licence suspension and 7-day vehicle seizure