A 23-year-old man has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to dangerous driving charges, following a crash that killed two University of B.C. students in 2021.
Tim Goerner, an international student at UBC, was driving on campus at speeds between 100 km/h and 120 km/h in a 40 km/h zone on Northwest Marine Drive on Sept. 21, 2021.
At around 1:45 a.m., his car veered off the side of the road and fatally struck two 18-year-old students on the sidewalk — Evan Smith and Emily Selwood.
Goerner hit a street lamp, then a boulder and his vehicle became airborne before running down the victims from behind.
Police at the scene of a fatal collision on Northwest Marine Drive on the campus of the University of British Columbia on Sept. 26, 2021. (Doug Kerr/CBC)
Police say Goerner, who was 21 at the time of the crash, was drinking at a party before he got into his car that night. He was initially charged with impaired driving, before pleading guilty to two counts of dangerous driving last month.
The judge agreed to a joint submission from the Crown and the defence, who said Goerner should serve three years in jail, with a driving prohibition of five years.
The deaths of the two undergraduate students came just a month after both Smith, from Ontario, and Selwood, from Victoria, were helped by their parents to set up their lives at UBC as undergraduate students.
At a Monday hearing, Smith's mother, Debbie O'Day-Smith, said the 18-year-old engineering student had been accepted to every university he'd applied to, but chose UBC because it was a place he felt he could grow the most.
"You robbed me of my baby, my little boy,'' she said, addressing Goerner across the courtroom. "If you are remorseful, prove it.''
Police at the time said that the driver of the vehicle veered off the side of the road and hit two young people walking on the sidewalk. (Janella Hamilton/CBC)
The judge, who agreed to the sentence, called the case extremely tragic, devastating and heartbreaking, accepting that Goerner was sincere in his remorse.
Judge Glenn Lee encouraged Goerner, a UBC engineering graduate, to use his experience to speak out against drinking and driving when he gets out of prison.
Goerner was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs on Tuesday, with his sentence to be served in a federal prison.
Victim's father says world 'fell apart'
Selwood's father, Duncan Selwood, told the court on Monday that the family's world "fell apart" the day of her death.
He said the emotional toll was like being "electrocuted" by jolts of fear, disbelief, sadness, anger and guilt that "knocked me to the ground."
Selwood said he can no longer interact with people, telling the court his daughter's death will "forever torment me," and that any words of apology from Goerner would be empty and meaningless.
A person leaves flowers at a memorial on Sept. 27, 2021 for the two UBC students who were struck and killed by Tim Goerner. (Ben Nelms/CBC)
The deaths of the two undergraduate students sent shock-waves through the UBC community, with both the student union and university offering mental health counselling to students in the days after.
After the sentencing decision Tuesday, O'Day-Smith said she was grateful to the Crown and RCMP for their work on the case.
However, she questioned why the joint Crown-defence submission did not include the impaired driving charges that Goerner initially faced — saying that if his blood alcohol concentration was below the legal limit, that charge would never have been laid.
"I believe Tim Goerner should have pleaded guilty to that charge because that is the right thing to do," she said. "Any apology outside of that is merely lip service."
O'Day-Smith said the criminal system ends up skewing toward the rights of the accused and was "leaving the victims in the dust."
"After Tim Goerner's sentence is complete and he gets on with his life, my beautiful son, Evan Smith, will still be dead," she said.
"That is our life sentence."
Debbie O'Day-Smith and Adam Smith, the parents of UBC student Evan Smith, who was killed in the crash, said the legal system is leaving victims in the dust. (Karin Larsen/CBC)