Drunk driver faces big bill for crashing truck into arena

A man who crashed his truck into the side of Rolling Mix Arena while driving drunk could find himself paying near $40,000 for the damage he caused.

Crown prosecution is seeking an order for $38,983.11 in restitution from Wyatt Stralak, 23, for the Aug. 31, 2017 incident. Prosecution is also seeking 30 days in jail and a one-year driving prohibition, the court heard during a sentencing hearing Wednesday.

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Stralak was arrested shortly after RCMP responded to a call at about 1 a.m. He was found on Dominion Street about 100 metres away, unsteady on his feet and bleeding from a cut to his head.

When he saw police, he raised his hands but denied he was involved in an accident and then sat down in the middle of the road while an ambulance was called to the scene.

Police traced a trail of blood back to the truck where it was found that only the driver's side airbag had deployed. While accompanying Stralak in the ambulance to the hospital, an officer noticed red marks along his left shoulder consistent with the colour of the truck's vehicle. The tread on his shoes matched the tracks police found going away from the truck, the court was also told.

Police determined he had been heading northeast along Patricia Boulevard when he failed to negotiate the slight left turn. He hopped over two curbs, ran over a yield sign and along the lawn before crashing through the arena's southwest brick wall.

He later told police he had been driving a truck owned by his brother-in-law's best friend and had taken it without permission. Stralak's hometown was Kamloops at the time but he now lives in Quebec City.

Roughly three hours after his arrest, Stralak blew .200 and .180 on the breathalyzer. From that and taking into account his height and weight, police extrapolated that his blood alcohol level was in the range of .228 to .255 at the time of the crash.

Stralak eventually pleaded guilty to driving with a blood-alcohol limit over .08 under the Criminal Code and driving while prohibited under the Motor Vehicle Act.

If the full amount prosecution is seeking for restitution is approved, the city will get $10,000 to cover the deductible and the insurer will get the remaining $28,983.11.

Stralak has no criminal record, but the severity of the damage combined with aggravated reading for blood-alcohol warrants time in custody, prosecutor Siobhan Greenfield argued.

By October 2017, the city had placed some heavy-duty artwork on the lawn Stralak had driven across. Made out of carved granite and twisted steel, it depicts three balloons on a string, fallen back to the ground after floating during a celebration to symbolize the end of the Canada Winter Games and the city's 100th anniversary. The project budget was $48,000.

The sentencing hearing continues Friday at the Prince George courthouse.

Editor's note: City spokesperson Mike Kellett said Thursday there is no correlation between the crash and the decision to install the artwork.

"The decision for the location of the artwork was made well before the incident you are referring to," he said.

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