A young Beaver Bank man has been sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for impaired driving causing the deaths of two of his friends and bodily harm to another.
Anthony Lloyd Gregory Cox, 22, pleaded guilty in the fall to three charges in connection with a car crash in Beaver Bank in the early morning hours of Oct.18, 2015.
Cox was sentenced Tuesday in Dartmouth provincial court by Judge Alanna Murphy, who accepted a joint recommendation from lawyers.
The court heard that Cox got behind the wheel of his friend’s car after consuming four beer and four shots of vodka over a six-hour period.
Cox wasn’t supposed to be driving any vehicle, after having his licence suspended.
And despite having three friends with him in the car, he chose to drive at a speed of at least 125 kilometres an hour on Beaver Bank Road in a 70 km-h zone.
The Honda Civic spun out of control on a curve and crashed into a ditch at about 1:30 a.m.
Gregory Goulding, 21, the owner of the car, died in the back seat of the vehicle.
Danielle Hudson, 22, was thrown from the vehicle and was declared brain dead in hospital the next day. She was kept on life support for another day until her organs could be harvested for donation.
Miranda MacIsaac,19, was also ejected from the car but survived her injuries, which included a collapsed lung, ruptured spleen, a fractured vertebra and a shoulder fracture.
Cox was alert and walking around when RCMP arrived at the crash scene.
He told the officers that he wanted to be honest and informed them that he had been drinking. He said he was not used to driving his friend’s car and took the turn too fast.
Officers detected an odour of alcohol on Cox’s breath and arrested him on suspicion of impaired driving.
Blood samples were taken from Cox at the hospital and were sent off for testing by a forensic toxicologist. The testing determined that at the time of the crash, Cox’s blood alcohol level was between 99 and 119 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, above the legal limit of 80 milligrams of alcohol.
Police obtained statements from friends of those involved in the crash.
Investigators learned that the four individuals had been drinking at a party and wanted to go back to the young women’s residence together. Goulding called a taxi company but was advised there would be a two-hour wait for a cab.
At that point, Cox volunteered to drive and the four left the party in Goulding’s vehicle.
Shortly afterward, Cox called a friend and said they had been in an accident and that he could not find a pulse on Goulding.
“It is a very sad day today for a lot of people,” Murphy said Tuesday in court. “No one is going to leave with any sense of being made whole or a sense that something good happened here today.
“The decisions that were made Oct. 18, 2015, have impacted many, many lives.”
Six relatives and friends of the deceased submitted victim impact statements to the court.
“Every inch and fibre of my will and reality has been rocked to the core,” said Charlene Hudson, Danielle’s mother. “Life as it once was died when Danielle died.”
She said she receives letters from people who received Danielle’s organs.
“”Although incredibly beautiful, the emotions that come with all of that just cannot be described (in) words. I still have not been able to write them back yet.
“I wear a green ribbon every single day that represents organ donation and cannot begin to express how wonderful it is when someone asks me about it. It gives me another opportunity to talk about my beautiful girl, to tell her story, to bring awareness to the amazing beauty of organ donation.”
She said she takes Danielle’s place at events with friends, makes late-night walks to the cemetery to visit her daughter, wears an article of her clothing or her perfume, watches video clips of her over and over again and talks to an 8x10 photo of her daughter.
“On the hardest days, I find comfort in writing directly to Danielle. … Although I know I cannot mail them to her, I feel she knows. Trying to find comfort and peace each day can be quite a challenge.
“How do you go on when a part of your soul has been ripped away from you, when you now and always will feel incomplete? I will never be whole again.”
Tracy Goulding, Gregory’s sister, said everything in her life changed in a single moment.
“My brother was my first best friend,” she said. “All my best childhood memories include him. …I feel robbed of him every day.”
She said she wonders why her brother didn’t wait for a cab and why he let Cox, his friend since kindergarten, drive.
She said she knows Cox didn’t mean for the crash to happen and said she wishes he would have reached out to her family in the aftermath of the tragedy to say he was sorry.
“The smallest of gestures could have made a huge difference in how I feel about your situation,” she said. “I’m not angry. I am heartbroken and disappointed.
“I truly hope this has impacted you. I hope it makes you a better person somehow. I hope that someday you try to help others who are unfortunately faced with the same reality as you are.”
Crown attorney Melanie Perry broke down as she read aloud an impact statement from Marion Goulding, Gregory’s mom.
She said she misses her son “so incredibly much. Time doesn’t ease the pain for me.”
She said Gregory was a handyman, a mechanic by hobby and a welder by trade. She said he was quiet but was “a helper to all” and had many friends.
“Anthony, I strongly acknowledge that you were one of those friends,” she said.
“Gregory should be here with us. Gregory called a cab the night of the accident. What was so important that it ended up costing two people their lives and ripped families apart?
“Our son, your friend, is now in an urn in our family room.”
The judge described the statements as “heartbreaking.”
“The statements reveal just a fraction of the enormity of this tragedy,” Murphy said.
“Clearly, Gregory and Danielle were well-loved, cherished people whose loss will have a profound impact on those who’ve been left behind for years to come.”
The prosecutor pointed out that in his presentence report, Cox said he now understands that he needs to wait a bit longer before driving after drinking.
“There is a little bit of concern about that statement,” Perry said. “I just hope that Mr. Cox gets it, that it’s not about going to a party and drinking and waiting enough time before you drive.
“That’s not what this is about. This is about making plans in advance of going anywhere, because when you are drunk, you have no judgment.”
Defence lawyer Pat Atherton said it was “truly a tragic situation. Two young people from the community are dead, one was seriously injured and we’re going to send another one to jail. There’s not a lot to add.”
Cox held his head in his hands and cried through most of the hearing as he sat on the prisoners bench.
“I’d like to say I’m very sorry,” he told the court through his tears. “I didn’t want anything to happen like this.”
The judge said Cox’s crimes require a sentence that “causes persons who might be like-minded … to think before they gamble with the lives of others on a road or in a vehicle.”
Murphy sentenced Cox to 54 months in prison on each charge of impaired driving causing death and two years for causing bodily harm and made the terms concurrent.
She urged Cox to take advantage of counselling for substance abuse while he’s behind bars so he can make the most of his life when he gets out.
The judge also prohibited Cox from driving for five years after he is released from prison and ordered him to provide a DNA sample for a national databank.
Anissa Aldridge, Atlantic Canadian director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was in court to support the victims’ families.
“It’s devastating to see these families and the way they’ve been broken,” Aldridge told reporters. “At the risk of sounding trite, they’ve all already been (handed) a life sentence. They have experienced great loss. … There’s nothing that’s going to make that OK or go away.”
The MADD spokeswoman said the case drives home the importance of making safe transportation plans before you go out drinking.
“Our kids… have been told that time after time in the school system, by their own parents I’m sure, just make plans. Call that taxi ahead of time. Take the bus. Have a designated driver. … Call a family member or a friend.
“I still tell my children every day – they’re 26 and 23 – I don’t care if you call me at 3 o’clock in the morning, I don’t care if it’s two hours away. I will be there to come and get you.
“I know that every … parent feels the same way.”