A man who killed three people while driving drunk in southern Manitoba has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Clarke Harding, 32, was also hit with a 10-year driving ban at Monday afternoon’s hearing. The Crown had asked for six years behind bars, while Harding was seeking just a three-year penalty.
Provincial court Judge Tracey Lord said this is yet another tragic example of the devastating consequences of impaired driving.
"He is, by all accounts, a good and kind person who made a horrible decision," said Lord. "I accept his remorse is genuine and he feels immense guilt."
Harding was the only survivor of the January 2012 head-on crash in Sanford, southwest of Winnipeg.
Harding was driving a Chrysler Sebring when he crossed into the oncoming lane of traffic and struck a Nissan pickup truck on Highway 3. The truck's driver, Paul Kler, 64, died instantly. Ellory Kirkwood, 20, and Michelle Hastings, 21, died in hospital; they were both passengers in Harding’s vehicle.
"I still wish every day I could trade places with them," Harding told court during sentencing submissions earlier this fall. "I don't feel lucky that I lived. I wish I could take it all back. I know I don't deserve your forgiveness. I just want you to know that I'm sorry."
Harding had pleaded guilty to three counts of impaired driving causing death. He had a blood-alcohol reading between .095 and .114. The legal limit for driving is .08.
Kirkwood, Hastings and Harding were friends. They'd spent the evening out at a bar. Harding was the designated driver. Although he drank some alcohol, Harding believed it wouldn't affect him.
"No doubt Mr. Harding feels terrible, is genuinely remorseful, but the point is, other people need to be deterred from making that similar decision," Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft previously told court.
Defence lawyer Sarah Inness described Harding as an otherwise law-abiding citizen made a tragic error in judgment that will haunt him for life.
"He is not an intentional killer. He thought he would be OK (to drive)," said Inness.
The families of all three victims made powerful impact statements in court and returned Monday for the conclusion of the case.