A 21-year-old man has been sentenced for a fatal crash that claimed the life of a 29-year-old woman near Courtenay in 2022.
The fatal crash occurred on the afternoon of May 11, 2022, when then 20-year-old Christopher Hoelzley was travelling south on Highway 19A near Merville.
At the same time, 29-year-old Melissa Stathers was travelling north on the highway just as Hoelzley crossed the double yellow centre line, crashing into Stathers’ vehicle.
Hoelzley would walk away from the crash with minor injuries, while Stathers was declared dead at the scene.
“As highlighted by the Crown, the circumstances are as simple as they are tragic,” writes Judge Jeremy Hermanson in his sentence ruling released Aug. 2.
It’s unclear why Hoelzley crossed the centre lines of the road. The court heard that impairment, excessive speeding and aggressive driving were not factors in the crash.
Weather and road conditions also did not appear to play a role in the collision.
Hoelzley told the court he could not remember what caused the crash, according to the judge’s decision.
“Mr. Hoelzley is left to speculate as to what transpired but he is unable to provide any answers,” said Hermanson.
The court heard a score of victim impact statements remembering Stathers, who was an educator and coached young female athletes.
“Through her previous colleagues and her father, also an educator, a picture was painted of a dedicated teacher and coach,” said Hermanson. “She was loved by staff and students alike.”
Stathers was also engaged to be married, with the wedding scheduled for several months after the crash.
“A common thread through the victim impact statements is the difficulty of living with the fact that the plans and hopes of Melissa Stathers will never be realized,” said Hermanson.
Stathers mother told the court that she mourned for the moments her daughter would no longer get to experience, explaining “when I think about what we all have lost, Melissa lost so much more.”
Hoelzley was sentenced to a 12 months probation, a 10-month driving prohibition, 25 hours of community service and a $1,380 in fees for his role in the crash.
The court heard that Hoelzley entered a guilty plea early into the process and expressed remorse, which were mitigating factors in the sentencing, along with the fact that Hoelzley did not have a previous criminal record or driving record.
Hermanson said the crash was caused by a “moment of inattention that resulted in a failure to negotiate a slight turn” on Hoelzley’s part.
“The consequences were horrific but the consequences are not a factor in determining his moral blameworthiness,” he said.
Hermanson added that there was no indications that Hoelzley was an aggressive or indifferent driver.
“The sentence that I impose today will not address the profound loss and the lives that have been changed forever as a result of Mr. Hoelzley’s lack of attention or momentary inattention,” said Hermanson.
“The law is not equipped or designed to address the exceptional loss and corresponding emotional pain. Indeed nothing can address that loss,” he said. “We cannot make Melissa Stathers loved ones whole.”