Vancouver man guilty of drunk driving death

A Yukon Supreme Court judge found a Vancouver man guilty of impaired driving causing death Friday. Christopher Maxwell-Smith, 27, was driving a Kia Sedona minivan with five passengers when he hit a patch of gravel and lost control of the vehicle.

A Yukon Supreme Court judge found a Vancouver man guilty of impaired driving causing death Friday.

Christopher Maxwell-Smith, 27, was driving a Kia Sedona minivan with five passengers when he hit a patch of gravel and lost control of the vehicle.

The van rolled into the ditch, killing Valentino Vella who was thrown from the vehicle.

Vella was the only person in the van not wearing a seatbelt.

The group had gone for a few beers after work in Pelly Crossing on July 8, 2010, and then decided to drive to Carmacks for food and more drinks.

Maxwell-Smith testified that he was distracted by his travelling companions momentarily when the van drifted onto the soft gravel shoulder of the highway. He overcorrected crosing into the opposing lane and crashed.

Maxwell-Smith tried to perform CPR on Vella, but he was later declared dead at the scene.

According to evidence before the court, the van was travelling at least 100 kilometres per hour when it left the highway. The speed limit in the construction zone was 70 kilometres per hour.

Maxwell-Smith admitted to having had three beers before driving, but said he did not feel impaired.

Breathalyzer tests found Maxwell-Smith’s blood alcohol content to be well above the legal limit of 0.08.

He also was driving with a learner’s licence, which restricted him to driving with no more than two passengers and with no more than zero blood alcohol content.

The judge found Maxwell-Smith guilty on one count of impaired driving causing death, and one count of driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.08 causing death.

He was acquitted of two related charges of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

Maxwell-Smith has been in custody at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre since violating the conditions of his bail earlier this year.

His sentencing is scheduled for November.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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