A Yukoner will serve a one-year conditional sentence after a New Year’s crash that killed his brother-in-law.
Trevor Castagner pleaded guilty to one count of dangerous driving in Yukon Supreme Court Monday.
His sentence includes a curfew for the first six months. He will not be able to drive for one year and is prohibited from drinking alcohol for that time. He must also complete 75 hours of community service.
The courtroom was packed earlier this week, with some people forced to stand, as Justice Leigh Gower heard the facts and sentenced the man.
The sentence was a joint recommendation coming from both lawyers.
Castagner, 40, originally faced charges that included impaired driving causing the death of Tim Bierlmeier. But he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.
Castagner was operating his snowmobile in the early-morning hours of New Year’s Day 2011, driving home from a party.
Bierlmeier, his brother-in-law and friend of 15 years, was sitting behind him.
The court heard how the snow machine took a curve to the left up to Castagner’s home in Crestview.
Castagner felt a “sudden and unexpected weight shift by the passenger,” his lawyer Vince Michaels said.
Perhaps the man lost his grip or his footing, the lawyer suggested, but no one is sure exactly what happened.
The shift in weight caused the snow machine to roll and Bierlmeier struck his head on a parked car as they were passing.
Bierlmeier was 40.
The court heard Castagner had three drinks over dinner on New Year’s Eve.
Sometime after midnight he was home when he got called to come to a second party and drove there on his snowmobile. He said he had two more beers there.
A witness told police Castagner appeared sober when the two men left on the snowmobile around 5 a.m., his lawyer said.
Castagner agrees he had drinks that night but is not admitting to any sort of impairment as the legal cause of the crash, Michaels told the court.
Gower heard that the snowmobile was travelling in and out of the ditches on its way back to Castagner’s home.
This was done “playfully” Michaels said. Both men were experienced snowmobilers, comfortable travelling this way, he said.
Michaels also agreed that when the snowmobile approached the curve before the house, it was going faster than the 50-km speed limit. Again, both men were confident on the machine, he said.
“All seemed well” until the crash, Michaels told the court.
A wildlife enforcement officer with Environment Canada in British Columbia, Castagner lived and worked in the Yukon for most of his life. He moved to Vancouver in May 2012.
The driving ban that comes as part of the sentence may mean he has to take a leave of absence from work, Michaels said.
The lawyer pointed to 32 letters of support filed with the court, which describe his client as someone who is ordinarily safety oriented.
Castagner has no criminal record or history of bad driving, he said.
What happened has been difficult for the entire family.
Castagner would like the chance to participate in some sort of victim/offender mediation program, Michaels said.
Gower agreed. The judge said what happened appeared to be out of character for Castagner.
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