Victim of rollover a 'beautiful soul'

A Smithers man who was behind the wheel during a rollover that led to the death of a 20-year-old Prince George man was sentenced Tuesday to two years plus a day in jail for drunk driving causing death.

Appearing in provincial court in Smithers, Ashton Michael Lewis, 23, was also prohibited from driving for six years for the June 9, 2018 incident in the community of 5,706 people 371 kilometres west of Prince George.

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In issuing the sentence, Judge Judith Doulis agreed to a joint submission from Crown and defence counsels that also included concurrent terms of six months in jail for fleeing the scene of an accident and driving while prohibited under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Recounting the circumstances, Doulis said it was about 10:45 p.m. when Lewis failed to negotiate a sharp turn where Railway Avenue turns into Pacific Avenue rolling his car into a ditch.

Taylor Blomquist, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was ejected from the back seat and died at the scene while another man, Keegan Leiterman, who was in the front, escaped without significant injury.

Lewis and Leiterman tried to hide the beer cans that had been in the car. Then Lewis fled the scene while Leiterman remained behind with Blomquist.

Police later tracked Lewis to his home and arrested him there. At the detachment, Lewis provided breath samples that show between 145 and 167 milligrams of alchohol per 100 millilitres of blood. A RCMP reconstructionist estimated Lewis' speed at 75 to 86 km/h in a 50 km/h zone while Leiterman estimated he was going 130 km/h.

Victim impact statements from nine of Blomquist's family members were submitted to the court.

Doulis said his mother, Sandra Miller, is crushed by grief and may never move beyond the pain and anger at her loss.

Miller described her son as a "beautiful soul. He was very handsome and kind. He had a great sense of humour, a mischievous grin, sparking eyes and a great love for his family."

Blomquist's uncle, Jason Richardson, had brought his nephew along with him to Smithers to help him paint an apartment building. Richardson said he continues to carry guilt because he suspected Lewis was impaired but let Blomquist go with him.

"I’ll never forget getting a text from my sister in the middle of the night: 'My baby is gone. . . Taylor is dead.' I still can’t even think about him or talk about it without breaking down," Richardson said in his victim impact statement.

Lewis' driving record includes two 90-day immediate roadside prohibitions and, at the time, he had been prohibited from driving due to a conviction for speeding.

Lewis pleaded guilty to drunk driving causing death and apologized to Blomquist's family in court, "which I find showed insight and fortitude given the emotionally-charged atmosphere," Doulis said.

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