Former RCMP Inspect. Tim Walton ties police tape at the scene of a multi-vehicle collision at the intersection of Cliffe Avenue and 26th Street July 26, 2016. Black Press File Photo

Family members of Vancouver Island man killed in 2016 collision deliver victim impact statements

The family of a 71-year-old man who was killed after being struck by a vehicle in July 2016 had their chance to speak in court on Thursday.

On July 26, 2016, a Nissan Pathfinder travelling north on Cliffe Avenue struck a pedestrian and proceeded to hit two other vehicles near the 26th Street intersection and then crashed into two cars parked in a nearby lot.

In December 2018, the driver of the vehicle, Serina Laliberte, was found guilty of three of nine charges relating to the incident. She was found guilty of having a blood-alcohol content over 0.08 mg/100ml of blood causing an accident resulting in death and two counts of causing an accident resulting in bodily harm.

READ MORE: Valley woman found guilty on three charges following 2016 collision in Courtenay

Thursday’s sentencing hearing heard the victim impact statements of three of the deceased’s family members, as well as a written letter from an injured victim.

Laliberte sat in the prisoner’s box throughout the hearing and did not look back at the courtroom gallery as the victim impact statements were read.

The victim’s wife was celebrating her birthday the day her husband was struck. She spoke about how deeply the loss has impacted her everyday life.

“On that day, July 26, we had many plans for the rest of the day, we had many plans for the months ahead. Especially with the fact that we were going to be grandparents for the first time,” she said. “But everything was taken away from us and my husband was taken away from me.”

Now, with the new addition of a granddaughter to the family, the victim’s wife feels joy, but also incredible sadness that her husband is not here to experience this.

“I welcome her with my heart full of love, but looking at her, holding her and seeing her grow, there is always a feeling of sadness,” she said.

The victim’s wife said this has been the hardest thing she has ever experienced, and she does not expect to recuperate any time soon.

The victim’s daughter describes the death of her father as her worst nightmare come true.

On July 26, 2016, the victim’s daughter was five and a half months pregnant with her daughter when her father was killed. Not only did they lose a valued life that day, in the coming weeks, they were concerned about another.

“My pregnancy was affected. My baby wasn’t growing as much as she should and I had to be closely monitored. Luckily, she started to grow again after some time,” she said. “My experience as a mother has been wonderful and I would never change that, but it has been undeniably tainted.”

The victim’s daughter and her husband are currently in the process of moving away from the Valley because living in Courtenay and driving down Cliffe Avenue are still constant reminders of her father’s death.

“The community we love so much has been ruined for me forever. I can never live here again. I was planning on being here for a long time with my family and make a life here, now I can’t drive the streets without feeling sick to my stomach,” she said.

The last of the family to speak was the victim’s son. He had been camping in the Kootenays the day his father died and did not find out until the next day.

He says he doesn’t remember much about the time directly following his father’s death except feeling numb. He said he began to feel angry as a way to cope and explain the sudden loss.

“I had no desire to engage in any types of activities I used to cherish. It took lots of time, effort, energy and therapy to get to where I am today,” he said.

“I’m not naive, I knew that one day he would be gone. I’ve thought about it, I tried to prepare for it … what I did not anticipate was how and when it was going to happen. None of us did.”

One of the drivers whose vehicle was hit when she was stopped at the intersection of Cliffe Avenue and 26th Street also prepared a victim impact statement, which was read to the court by the prosecutor.

The statement, which was written on March 16, 2017, detailed constant shoulder and back pain felt by the victim that impacted her sleep, everyday life and her job.

She wrote that she was going to physiotherapy twice a week to manage the pain and attended counselling sessions to manage her anxiety.

She added that driving has become anxiety-inducing and she constantly finds herself nervously checking her rearview mirror for vehicles going too fast.

The sentencing hearing concluded Thursday and the judge is expected to deliver a sentence on Friday.

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