The scene in Harrison Hot Springs in July 2013 after a driver high on drugs crashed into pedestrians during the Harrison Festival of the Arts. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Drug-addled driver who crashed into family at Harrison festival sentenced to 15 months

Victim calls length of time to access justice in 2013 case ‘brutal’

A man who drove into a crowd of pedestrians while high on drugs at the 2013 Harrison Festival of the Arts is finally off to jail.

Judge Wendy Young sentenced Clinton Lee Michaloski to 15 months in prison in Chilliwack provincial court on Monday. He was also given two years probation and is prohibited from driving for three years.

The sentence matches what Crown counsel was asking the court to hand down.

It was just after 1 p.m. on July 7, 2013 when Dannie and Christine Schultz were walking near the intersection of Esplanade Avenue and Hot Springs Road with their sons, Clayton and Dylan.

High on cocaine, fentanyl and THC, 27-year-old Michaloski crashed his white Toyota FJ Cruiser into the family, seriously injuring the parents. Clayton suffered minor injuries while 16-year-old Dylan managed to jump out of the way.

Visibly shaken, Dannie, Christine and one of their sons left the Chilliwack courthouse Monday after Michaloski was led into custody in handcuffs by a sheriff. Dannie said it was ‘brutal” how long the case took to reach resolution.

“We just want to get past this,” he told The Progress. “It shouldn’t have to take this long.”

He added that they were in Harrison Hot Springs that day to celebrate their anniversary.

At Michaloski’s sentencing hearing in March, the court heard that eight different drugs were found in his blood, including cocaine, fentanyl and THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.

He was also found with drug paraphernalia, oxycontin pills and 19 grams of marijuana.

There were an estimated 300 to 400 people in the area, because of the popular music and arts festival.

Prior to the crash, Michaloski was spotted driving north on Hot Springs Road, erratically and dangerously, according to a witness who followed him.

At 1:15 p.m., Michaloski crashed into the family.

“Christine was seen flying through the air landing 15 to 20 feet from where she was struck,” Crown counsel Grant Lindsey told the court at the March 10 sentencing hearing.

The 37-year-old’s head and knee were injured. Her pelvis was broken in four places.

Dannie suffered a compound fracture to his right ankle for which he has had three surgeries and will need one more. Clayton suffered a sprained ankle and scrapes when he was knocked to the ground.

Michaloski was immediately approached by witnesses after the incident, to whom it was clear that he was impaired by something. When police arrived, he was mumbling, slurring his words and his eyes were red and glassy.

“He had a hard time spelling his own name when he was asked to,” Lindsey said.

The RCMP officer who arrested Michaloski said he was in and out of consciousness.

“By the time she got around to ask if he wanted a lawyer, he fell asleep again,” Lindsey said.

Michaloski was so out of it, “he had to be told several times that he hit some pedestrians,” the court heard.

Crown had asked Young to sentence Michaloski to 15 months in jail followed by probation and a five-year driving ban, but this was later reduced to a three-year driving ban, as that is the most allowed under the law for a first offence.

Defence lawyer Michael Bolton asked for a 12-month sentence and requested a lighter driving ban to better integrate Michaloski back into society and his career as an electrician.

The night before the incident, Michaloski went to a known drug dealer in Harrison Hot Springs with his mother where he purchased cocaine. His mother was a passenger in his vehicle the day of the crash and was at the scene after, but it was unclear if she was in the vehicle when it happened.

Bolton told the court that this was the beginning of the fentanyl crisis, and the dangerous drug was cut into the cocaine he bought.

“It’s an extremely dangerous and serious drug,” Bolton said of the fentanyl. “He has no recollection of the accident or even that he was driving… . he did not intend to be impaired to the degree that he was.”

Young took issue with Bolton’s argument, saying she was presented with no medical evidence or expert testimony that fentanyl mixed with cocaine creates longer-term effects that could have affected his behaviour the next day.

“You are saying the fentanyl knocks this out of the park?” Young asked.

Bolton did not pursue the argument, particularly because fentanyl or no fentanyl, defence conceded that Michaloski was found impaired by cocaine and THC, which were intentionally ingested. He was also found with two different anti-depressants in his system.

On that point, Lindsey added that even if there was no need for specific deterrence in this case because Michaloski is not driving, is abstaining from drugs and is remorseful, there is a need for general deterrence.

“The moral blameworthiness is high because he chooses to ingest drugs and then drives,” Lindsey said.

As a mitigating factor, Lindsey pointed to his lack of a criminal record before the crash, but added that Michaloski did continue to drive under the influence after the date.

On Aug. 16, 2013, just one month later, he was found passed out behind the wheel in Burnaby, and he was convicted of care or control of vehicle while impaired.

Bolton argued that this incident was likely an attempted suicide, as his life spiralled out of control.

He added that given that he is being sued by ICBC, the financial harm tacked on to the criminal penalty will be great.

“He’ll be paying for the rest of his mortal life for this,” Bolton said.

Michaloski himself addressed the court, apologizing and saying he lives with the shame of it every single day.

Dannie and Christine were in the court at the beginning of the hearing, but not when Michaloski spoke.

“I wish these people were still here because I wanted to make a formal apology,” he said.

paul.henderson@theprogress.com

@PeeJayAitch

 

The son of one of the victims holds his mother’s hand after a driver high on drugs crashed into pedestrians during the Harrison Festival of the Arts in 2013. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)