Updated: Canada Day drunk driver sentencing delayed

Crown asking for three to five years in prison for 2011 crash that killed motorcyclist in Goldstream

Tracy Dawn Smith is in the Western Communities Courthouse today for pre-sentencing after pleading guilty to causing the death of Janarthan Mahenthiran in 2011.

Tracy Dawn Smith is in the Western Communities Courthouse today for pre-sentencing after pleading guilty to causing the death of Janarthan Mahenthiran in 2011.

A sentence is expected in two to three weeks in the case of Tracy Dawn Smith.

Smith, 36, pleaded guilty in June to impaired driving causing the death of 47-year-old Janarthan Mehanthiran on Canada Day 2011. Smith was in Western Communities Courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 6 for a sentencing hearing.

Judge Robert Higinbotham said he had hoped to give his sentence Tuesday, especially as the victim’s family came from Ontario to attend the court date, but that he needs time to consider the case and make his decision.

Crown counsel is seeking a sentence of three to five years in prison, followed by a 10-year driving prohibition. Defence lawyer Bob Jones asked for a sentence of two to four years, and for the judge to consider giving Smith credit for the time she has spent living at VisionQuest Recovery Society since being released on bail 15 months ago.

By all accounts Smith has been sober since the accident.

Smith drove into Mahenthiran, who was driving a motorcycle, on the Trans-Canada Highway near the Leigh Road Interchange after she crossed the centre line while under the influence of alcohol and crack cocaine. Mahenthiran died at the scene of the accident.

The accident occurred the day before Mahenthiran’s birthday. His mother, who lives in Ontario, found out about her son’s death on his birthday. He is also survived by his wife of 22 years, a brother and two sisters.

Smith read a letter out loud at the hearing expressing her regret and remorse. She did not look at Mahenthiran’s family and read quickly, but audibly fought back emotions as she spoke.

“There will never be enough words to express how sorry I am about this tragic day,” Smith said. “I deeply apologize to the family, my thoughts and prayers are with you and will be every day.”

Mahenthiran’s family, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, said that Smith’s letter felt like a standard apology letter. The victim’s brother-in-law, Cherry Phillips, said they will accept the judge’s decision.

“We’re not revengeful, we’re not wanting her lynched,” Phillips said. “Whatever the court decides is acceptable, because it’s not going to alter what happened. The loss remains.”

“I just want some justice so that nothing happens to anyone, anywhere,” Janarthan Mehanthiran’s mother, Sarojini Mahenthiran, said, “so that no other mother cries like me.”

Crown lawyer Laureen Nowlan-Card revealed Smith was drunk at the time of the crash and smoked crack earlier that day.

Other drivers saw Smith driving erratically as she made her way from Goldstream Provincial Park to the highway, often crossing over the centre line and nearly hitting a parked car.

When Smith hit Mahenthiran, who was travelling in the other direction, she crossed the centre line far enough to hit him with the passenger side of her vehicle.

After the accident Smith claimed that Mahenthiran had hit her. She was taken to hospital, where she was violent and combative with hospital staff and police. She refused to leave the hospital with police and after being put into the back of a police car, split her head open banging it against the window.

Crown is arguing that given Smith was obviously under the influence and was in no condition to drive but still did so for some time before the crash, she is morally responsible.

Jones argued that given Smith’s history and her success in recovery from addictions that she be granted some leniency to continue her recovery. VisionQuest executive director Jim O’Rourke said he believes she would be better off where she is, rather than in prison.

Smith has a history of alcohol abuse stemming back to when she was 15. Between 2009 and 2011 she worked as a prostitute to support her drug habit. An abusive childhood as a result of being an aboriginal child from a family with survivors of residential schools is also being considered. Smith also has no prior criminal or driving records.

******

Motorcyclists continue to follow case

Like many members of Vancouver Island’s motorcycling community, Bobbi Bjornholt has been following Tracy Dawn Smith’s story closely.

Bjornholt rode with Janarthan Mahenthiran and has been in contact with his family since the crash that killed him.

“We all recognize that it could have been any one of us that died that day,” Bjornholt said.

After what she described as an emotional day in court, Bjornholt continues to believe that a proper punishment is needed for Smith to discourage other drivers from making a similar decision to drive while drunk or high.

“It’s put all of us motorcyclists on edge,” Bjornholt said. “Knowing that people are on the road in the state that she was in is terrifying.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

The Victoria Police Department is looking for help identifying a person of interest after an April 29 hit-and-run. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police looking for suspect in hit-and-run investigation

The suspect was driving a four-door grey Dodge Ram 1500 truck

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read