A woman who killed a family of four while driving drunk was sentenced Wednesday in Saskatoon Provincial Court.
Catherine Loye McKay pleaded guilty in June to four counts of impaired driving causing death, stemming from a Jan. 3 crash that killed Jordan and Chanda Van de Vorst, as well as their two children Kamryn, 5, and Miguire, 2.
Court hears details from night of crash
The sentencing started with the Crown prosecutor reading out the facts of the case.
He said McKay started drinking wine as she cooked supper around 5 p.m. on Jan. 2. From there, she went to the Industrial Kitchen and Bar on Avenue B North, where staff said she was served beer, wine and a shot.
The Crown said McKay announced plans to go from the Industrial to the Crackers karaoke bar on Pinehouse Drive. Staff at the Industrial urged her not to drive, with the manager even offering her a ride before she disappeared.
Court heard McKay got in her Jeep and drove herself to Crackers, where she was reportedly incoherent. She later told police that her only memory of being there was seeing lyrics on the karaoke screen that she couldn’t read.
After leaving Crackers around 12:05 a.m. on Jan. 3, the Crown said McKay planned to drive to her home on Avenue D North. The Crown said McKay later told police she didn’t know how or why she ended up on Wanuskewin road headed out of the city instead.
Witnesses reported seeing McKay’s jeep driving erratically. The Crown said she ran several signs, and went over multiple rumble strips before slamming into the Van de Vorst’s car at the intersection of Wanuskewin Road and Highway 11.
The Crown told court McKay was traveling at 105 kilometres per hour when she hit the Van de Vorst’s car. Accident reconstructionists determined she took her foot off the gas, but didn’t hit the brakes before the crash.
A blood test later found McKay had a blood alcohol level of between 0.237 and 0.257, or about three times the legal limit.
Family, friends give victim impact statements.
Court heard over a dozen victim impact statements read over about three hours.
Friends described the family as the heart of their social circle — with Jordan and Chanda often leading activities and games.
Many in the gallery wept as a victim’s services worker read a statement from the first police officer to arrive at the scene of the crash. He described it as one of the worst he’d seen in 10 years on the job. He said he knew Jordan and Chanda were dead in the front seats as he approached the ruined vehicle. He then described trying to help Miguire breathe after finding him gasping in the back seat. He wrote that he sat in his squad car and cried after emergency workers took over. He said it was especially difficult because his own young son bears a resemblence to Miguire, and he said he’s felt heightened fears for his children in the wake of the crash.
Several family members gave emotional statements as they described the call from police informing them of the crash, and then the frantic rush to Royal University Hospital where doctors were still trying to save Kamryn and Miguire. Neither child made it.
Angie White, Jordan’s sister, said she got to Miguire’s hospital room to see the boy being held in the arms of another family member. She told court she rushed over to her nephew, noticing several small cuts on his face and a large bandage in the middle of his forehead. She said she called for someone to bring the boy some slippers when she noticed that his feet were ice cold, and that this was when she was told he was dead.
Lou Van de Vorst, Jordan’s father, told court he has lost his ability to enjoy life after losing a third of his family all at once. He went on to criticize Saskatchewan’s rate of drunk driving, which has sat stubbornly at about three times the national average for years.
“How many people have to die before it becomes socially unacceptable to drink and drive?” he asked as he finished his statement.
Drunk driver apologizes, judge imposes 10-year sentence
Following a brief recess, McKay was given the chance to address the court.
Breaking down in tears, she said she has thought about the Van de Vorst family every day since the crash. “‘Sorry’ is a word that is overused. It’s often misused. It can’t begin to express the sorrow in my heart,” she said, noting she has a daughter and grandchildren about the same age as the Van de Vorsts were.
McKay finished her statement by saying the only way she will be able to live with herself upon her release will be to become an anti-drunk driving advocate. She said she hopes to one day tell her story to people as a way of keeping others from getting behind the wheel drunk.
The Crown and defence presented Judge Barry Singer with a joint submission asking for a 10-year sentence.
McKay was sentenced to 10 years in prison. She will also be forbidden to drive for 12 years when she is released. With credit for time spent on remand, she has nine years and two months left to serve.
Leslie Sullivan, McKay’s defence lawyer said that, to her knowledge, the sentence was the longest of its kind ever handed down in Saskatchewan.