The man who was behind the wheel in a motor vehicle accident in 2016 that claimed the lives of Saltair’s Paige Whitelaw and friend Carlee DeBoer on Highway 6 near Vernon will spend the next three years in jail.
Travis Fox, 22, from Enderby, was sentenced by Judge Mayland McKimm Friday in Vernon Provincial Court.
“This devastating accident has shattered two families’ lives forever and changed the lives of two other families,” Paige’s parents Nadine and Ernie Whitelaw and family said in a statement.
“Two beautiful girls just finishing their last two months of college, whom had a wonderful future ahead are gone, two brothers and the driver now have to live the rest of their life with this terrible memory of that fatal night of losing a longtime friend Carlee and new friend Paige.
“We had never met the accused Travis Fox, but heard he is a responsible young man and this was out of his character. He made a terrible decision that night by saying he was OK to drive and taking the keys from his friend.”
Fox pleaded guilty to two counts of dangerous driving causing death, two counts of impaired driving causing death and two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm. Six other counts against him were stayed by Crown counsel.
“I’m here today to take responsibility for my actions,” said Fox when given an opportunity to address the court by McKimm at his sentencing hearing.
“I know there is nothing I can say or do that will fix what has happened. I’m very sorry to the families of Carlee and Paige. I wish I could bring them back or trade places with them. I wish this day would have come sooner to give Carlee and Paige’s families closure.”
Whitelaw, DeBoer and two other passengers were in a white pick-up driven by Fox on March 6, 2016. Fox failed to negotiate a curve and the truck went off the highway and flipped in a ditch.
The five friends had been at a Vernon nightclub when Fox took the keys to a friend’s pickup and was heading to his mom’s house about 10 minutes away. Court heard the vehicle was travelling more than 141 kilometres per hour in a 60 km/h speed zone and Fox’s blood-alcohol reading taken an hour after the crash was .151.
McKimm sentenced Fox to three years in a federal penitentiary for each of the impaired driving causing death charges; 18 months each for the dangerous driving causing death charges, and 12 months for the impaired driving causing bodily harm counts. All charges are to be served concurrently, meaning Fox will spend three years in jail.
He was also given a 12-month driving prohibition upon completion of his sentence.
“This offence cries out for a sentence that makes a strong statement of general deterrence,” said McKimm, agreeing with defence’s submission, taking into account that Fox pleaded guilty at the earliest possible time, had no prior criminal record, and had only one prior driving infraction, a speeding ticket.
But McKimm also noted the seriousness of Fox’s blood-alcohol level and travelling at more than twice the posted legal speed limit.
“In my view, the fact that there were two victims, the fact the accused was speeding excessively, almost twice the legal limit, suggests this offence should attract a sentence to the middle-to-upper end of that range,” said McKimm, who accepted Fox’s deep remorse, noting he has undergone counselling since the accident and has abstained from drinking.
“This accident was preventable and should never have happened,” added the Whitelaws in their statement. “We hope with all our heart that everyone young and old has learned from this terrible tragedy. No family should have to live this nightmare and we know the sentencing Travis received will not bring our daughter Paige or her friend Carlee back but hope will stop others from making this terrible mistake.”
— with a file from Roger Knox, Vernon Morning Star