GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. – A man convicted after a crash that killed four high school football players from northern Alberta has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Brenden Holubowich will also be forbidden to drive for three years once he is released.
Holubowich, 23, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice William Tilleman said determining a sentence for Holubowich may have been the most difficult thing he has ever done.
Tilleman’s eyes filled with tears as he told court he sympathized with the dead teens’ relatives, who had suggested that a three-year sentence would not be enough. He also said he felt for Holubowich’s family.
Tilleman said he struggled with his decision and at one point considered a longer period behind bars.
But in the end, the judge said, the sentence jointly submitted by the Crown and defence was just and in keeping with similar cases.
Holubowich had been facing 16 charges, including impaired driving causing death and failing to remain at the scene of an accident.
His pickup truck collided with a car carrying five members of the Warriors football team from Grande Prairie Composite High School in October 2011.
Walter Borden-Wilkins and Tanner Hildebrand, both 15, and Matthew Deller and Vince Stover, both 16, were killed. Zach Judd, now 17, was pulled from the wreckage and spent several weeks in a coma.
Holubowich’s mother, Teresa Bateman, read a statement outside court after the sentencing.
“We cannot imagine the loss or the grief that you’ve experienced and no matter how much we might pray, hope or wish that it isn’t so, this tragedy can never be reversed and for this we are sorry,” she said, her voice breaking.
Court heard Holubowich had been drinking with co-workers at a Grande Prairie bowling alley and was driving at speeds as high as 151 km/h on the way home to the nearby town of Wembley.
The football players had just left a party outside the city. But within minutes their car and three others pulled off the highway and into the driveway of a nearby business. One by one, they all quickly made U-turns on the highway to go in the other direction.
Their car, the last to make the U-turn, was struck as it straddled the centre line.
Holubowich never stopped to see if the boys were OK or to call 911. He ran on foot to his workplace, an oilfield transportation company, where RCMP found him an hour later.
Judd testified Tuesday that he often thinks about suicide since the crash. He said the fact he was the only one to survive makes him angry and depressed.
He spent 11 days in a coma suffering from a severe brain injury and said he had to learn how to walk and talk again. He said he has permanently lost hearing in one ear and it affects his balance.
Defence lawyer Chris Millsap said there was no evidence his client was drunk when he got behind the wheel.
“I understand the concerns about drinking and driving, and I understand how alcohol was involved here to a degree, but this is not a case of drunk driving or impaired driving,” he said outside court.
The teenagers were the responsible ones that night. Autopsy results show the boy driving the car, Matthew, had no alcohol or drugs in his system.
Holubowich read a statement to the court in which he said he did not expect forgiveness but he hoped the families could accept his apology.
“I would give anything to change the outcome of that night. I am truly very sorry.”