The family of Winnipeg tow-truck driver Amanda Frizzley believes a steep new price has been put on drunk driving after the man who killed their daughter was sentenced to 30 months behind bars today.
A tearful Steve Watkins, 22, was led out of court in handcuffs after a judge approved a joint sentencing recommendation from Crown and defence lawyers. Watkins pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death in the September 2007 crash that killed Frizzley in downtown Winnipeg.
Frizzley, 26, was thrown from her Dr. Hook Towing truck and crushed after a Jimmy SUV driven the wrong way on York Avenue crashed into her. Another passenger in the truck was sent to hospital with injuries.
At the time, Frizzley and other tow truck drivers were clearing the downtown area of vehicles to make way for a charity run to benefit cancer research later that morning.
"I think the justice system has made a quantum leap today," the victim’s father, Craig Frizzley, said outside court this afternoon.
Frizzley runs a Manitoba driving school along with his wife, Jan, and said it’s clear motorists still aren’t getting the message about drinking and driving, pointing to the recent holiday Checkstop campaign.
The family hopes stiffer prison sentences -- instead of conditional penalties that allow deadly drivers to remain in the community -- will help turn the corner.
"We know this case has set a precedent. Even if you drink and drive and don’t have a record, you go to prison. You don’t get a slap on the wrist anymore," he said.
Watkins had a blood-alcohol level of approximately .20 at the time of the crash, which is two-and-a-half times the legal limit for driving. He had no prior criminal record and was seriously injured himself, spending six days in a coma and requiring extensive surgery and rehabilitation.
"I know I can’t expect your forgiveness. The terrible pain for your loss must be difficult," an emotional Watkins told the victim’s family, friends and supporters just before being led away in handcuffs.
"From the bottom of my heart I am sorry."
Queen’s Bench Justice Morris Kaufmann called Frizzley’s death a "parent’s worst nightmare" and said the justice system could do little to ease the family’s pain.
"These cases, more than most, highlight the inadequacies of the justice system to make things right," he said.
Watkins was also given a five-year driving ban.