The man responsible for a devastating vehicle crash in Brooke-Alvinston has been given the chance to serve his punishment at home.
Ivan Russell, 29, was facing a year behind bars for the March 2019 incident at the Alvinston Cemetery which ripped his SUV in half and ejected three of his friends at high speed.
But Defence Lawyer Robert DiPietro says his client poses no more danger to the community, largely due to massive injuries suffered himself. A conditional sentence of similar length was his proposal.
Russell plead guilty in December to three counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. During June sentencing submissions Crown Attorney Melanie Nancekievill says crash scene photos were “astounding… It certainly is a wonder that anyone survived this collision.”
Russell was driving south on Cameron Road shortly after midnight March 2, 2019. His GMC Yukon hit speeds of 165 km/h, more than double the speed limit, when he passed the Alvinston Cemetery and lost control of the vehicle at the curve in the road.
The SUV collided with a hydro pole so savagely that the frame was torn off the chassis and the pole was completely severed. The three passengers were flung along the ground.
Russell stayed in the remains of the SUV which then smashed into a tree. Brooke-Alvinston firefighters had to free him with the jaws of life.
Russell’s passengers – a man from Plympton-Wyoming, a man from Dawn-Euphemia, and a woman from Petrolia – were lucky to survive the crash. One man had severe neck and back injuries while the other man had a serious head injury. The woman sustained serious leg injuries that needed surgery.
Nancekievill says all three victims suffered injuries, physical and mental, that were “life-altering, catastrophic… The impact is such that lives are forever changed.”
Russell did not escape unharmed. He was left with severe injuries to his lower body and has had reconstructive surgery. Russell says he has no memory of the crash. He’ll be in rehabilitation and physiotherapy for the foreseeable future.
“It’s a quite tragic event. If I could take back what happened I would, no matter what the cost,” says Russell last month. “We all got thrown quite a hardball here.”
“I’d just like to apologize to everyone and say how sorry I am for everything that’s happened here. I hope that I can gain some forgiveness from this. But I don’t expect it.”
Justice Anne McFadyen says “miraculously” everyone survived, noting the substantial nature of the injuries and highly excessive speed as aggravating factors.
But factoring in Russell is largely immobile while he recovers, a positive pre-sentence report and a lack of desire from the victims to see him harshly punished, McFadyen decided jail time wouldn’t serve a purpose.
Russell walked out the front door of the courtroom as a result, rather than through the back door and across the street to Sarnia Jail.
As a trade off Russell’s conditional sentence was increased to 18 months with strict conditions. His next year will be spent under house arrest where he can only leave his home for medical appointments and four hours on Friday to collect supplies. The final six months of the sentence he’ll transition to a curfew order. Russell can’t have any alcohol or intoxicating substances during these 1.5 years.
After the conditional sentence Russell will be on another three years of probation where he’ll have to take counselling. He also has a three year driving ban.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent