Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 4, 2014

Man initially claimed he hadn’t been the driver

A Ross River man who caused the death of a teenaged girl after he drove a truck full of passengers into the Pelly River while drunk has been sentenced to roughly two years in jail.

By Christopher Reynolds on February 4, 2014 at 3:52 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

Judge Karen Ruddy

A Ross River man who caused the death of a teenaged girl after he drove a truck full of passengers into the Pelly River while drunk has been sentenced to roughly two years in jail.

A Yukon territorial court judge handed 25-year-old David Magill a 25-month sentence last Friday for the dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death.

He has 10 1/2 months left to serve, with credit given for time already spent behind bars in pre-sentence custody.

The charge, to which Magill pleaded guilty, stems from an incident in July 2012 that saw Ross River resident Katelynn Sterriah, 16, drown inside Magill’s truck, trapped below the surface of the fast-flowing Pelly.

Magill, then 24, had spent the night of July 6 and early-morning hours of July 7 drinking with the four passengers, among others, at various locations in Ross River.

At around 6 a.m., passenger Luke John suggested they go for a drive down a bush road that ends at the river bank on the edge of his mother’s property, where the small group was gathered.

John, Sterriah and two other young people piled into the truck, while Magill got behind the wheel.

“The defendant was described as driving recklessly and at a rate of speed unsuited to the condition of the road” — basically “damp dirt overgrown with grass,” according to the statement of facts submitted jointly by the Crown and defence.

“As the vehicle approached, the occupants yelled at the defendant to stop.”

Magill slammed on the brakes, “which resulted in the vehicle sliding past the end of the road and partially into the river, where the current dragged it entirely into the water.”

The driver and three passengers managed to escape from the truck.

Only onshore did they realize someone was missing.

The joint statement says “that attempts were made to rescue Ms. Sterriah ... but that the current was too strong to allow them to reach the vehicle.”

Eventually, the truck lodged in the river “with only its antenna emerging from the water.”

One of the survivors walked four kilometres to get help before coming across a road crew working in the area, the RCMP said at the time.

Police officers arrived on the scene at 8:15 a.m. They recovered Sterriah’s body later in the day as the vehicle was retrieved from the river.

John told police one of the teenaged passengers — not Magill — had been driving, which the supposed driver “confirmed.”

The 17-year-old girl was arrested and charged, admitting several days later that Magill had been the actual driver.

She had suggested right after the drowning that she take the blame for the incident, “as the defendant was distraught over the possibility of going to jail because he is the father of a small child,” according to the joint statement.

Magill was arrested 11 days after the tragedy.

A report prepared by an RCMP “collision reconstructionist” concluded the accident occurred due to “the defendant either failing to notice that he was coming to the river ... or travelling too fast to be able to stop the vehicle in time if he did,” the statement says.

Magill submitted a statement to the court as evidence.

“I’m so sorry for the loss of Katelyn Sterriah. I know that what I did was wrong.

“I lied about who was driving,” he admitted. “I was driving.

“I know I put so much hurt, pain and sadness on all of you at the time of Katelynn’s death….I know I made some bad choices.

“Over the next five to 10 years, I will continue to think about the choices I’m making and I will think about making better choices for myself, my baby girl, my family and my community,” he wrote.

Sterriah’s family did not return calls seeking comment.

Two months after his conditional release in September 2012, Magill was found in violation of court orders by having consumed alcohol.

He went back to jail and then entered a rehabilitation program in Alberta in early 2013.

He was booted from the program last April “for not complying with the rules,” according to the joint statement.

He was also convicted of driving drunk on the night of the drowning, a crime the court dealt with previously.

In spite of Magill’s recent history, a statement from a clinical counsellor at the Kwanlin Dun Health Centre testified to Magill’s potential.

“He seems to be a thoughtful, polite and caring young man. He is strongly attached to his almost three-year-old daughter and maintains a good relationship with his mother, his aunt and uncle,” said counsellor Evann Lacosse.

He also spoke to the legacy of colonialism and residential schools in Ross River, “where his extended family and community have experienced much added trauma through accidental deaths, murders, suicides, childhood neglect and abuse, and family and communal violence.”

A statement from Magill’s aunt and uncle said their nephew — a second-generation residential school survivor – drank in order “to quell the ... daily thoughts of an abusive past.”

Judge Karen Ruddy gave Magill a two-year probation on top of his sentence, with a one-year driving suspension tacked on.

CommentsAdd a comment

June Jackson

Feb 4, 2014 at 5:13 pm

No sympathy here for McGill..saying anything to get off ..he drank, he drove, he killed someone.. 2 years..he should have gotten the same sentence as Katelynn.

Society needs to have ZERO tolerance for impaired drivers.  They never drink and drive just once..every single one of them have done it before they got caught and will do it again after a sob story gets them completely off or off with a slap on the wrist.

‘He seems to be a thoughtful, polite, caring young man”..too bad for Katelynn that he didn’t care about her.

Jane Smith

Feb 4, 2014 at 7:32 pm

What kind of man lets a 17-year old take the blame when he kills a 16-year-old?

James Wales

Feb 4, 2014 at 9:46 pm

You’re dumb, you’re drunk, you drive, you kill an innocent person, you appear before a judge, and you will be free before Christmas. Has all the makings of a travesty and a tragedy.

Just Say'in

Feb 6, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Oh here we go again, a case of harsh potty training. Second generation residential school syndrome. Really? He was out partying having fun and caused a death, end of story. No personal responsibility. Must have been someone else driving, residential school, not my fault. And the court laps it up.

56Yukon

Feb 6, 2014 at 5:52 pm

When will people be held accountable? A young girl is dead and we have to hear ‘I have had a tough time’. Shame on this crappy system.

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