Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Family rejects remorse claim

Court hears moving statement; media broadcast proceeding

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Doreen Chaikowsky was killed Aug. 24, 2013, in a crash caused by Adam Langan. He had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, was high on cocaine and driving 123 kilometres per hour in a 60-km/h zone when he smashed into several vehicles on McPhillips Street near William Avenue. Chaikowsky, 71, suffered catastrophic injuries, court was told.

HOWARD WONG FILE PHOTO Enlarge Image

Doreen Chaikowsky was killed Aug. 24, 2013, in a crash caused by Adam Langan. He had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, was high on cocaine and driving 123 kilometres per hour in a 60-km/h zone when he smashed into several vehicles on McPhillips Street near William Avenue. Chaikowsky, 71, suffered catastrophic injuries, court was told.

It's a scene that plays out often in court: Outrageous facts presented in yet another drunk-driving tragedy, plenty of anger and tears, expressions of remorse and the victim's family feels an injustice has occurred.

But Friday's hearing had a much larger audience than usual because local media outlets broadcast it live as part of a pilot project.

Whether it will prevent other motorists from drinking and driving remains to be seen.

Crown and defence lawyers asked for a 41/2-year prison sentence for the Winnipeg driver responsible for an August 2013 crash.

Provincial court Judge Kelly Moar will deliver his verdict July 31.

Adam Langan, 30, had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood and was high on cocaine. His speed was 123 kilometres per hour in a 60-km/h zone when he smashed into several vehicles on McPhillips Street near William Avenue, court heard Friday.

Doreen Chaikowsky, 71, was killed instantly when her heart and liver were torn in the crash.

"One cannot explain what happened to Doreen Chaikowsky as an accident," said Crown attorney Jim Ross. "At this level of intoxication by both alcohol and drug, at reckless speeds, at 5 p.m. on a Saturday on a busy thoroughfare, it was inevitable that Mr. Langan was going to cause tragedy."

'At this level of intoxication by both alcohol and drug, at reckless speeds, at 5 p.m. on a Saturday on a busy thoroughfare, it was inevitable that Mr. Langan was going to cause tragedy' -- Crown attorney Jim Ross

Langan, who pleaded guilty less than a year after the deadly crash, said he is filled with remorse.

Court was told his demeanour was very different at the scene of the crash.

He was extremely combative, challenged police officers to a fight, called them "white bitches" and gave them the middle finger while shouting that he was only being arrested because "I'm aboriginal."

Langan entered his guilty plea recently after his bid for bail was denied.

In court Friday, one of Chaikowsky's family members passed by the prisoner's box and told Langan: "You're a piece of s--t."

Debbie Leah read a powerful victim-impact statement on camera. It marked the first time anyone other than a judge or lawyer had been shown on video in court.

Leah described Chaikowsky as a loving, caring mother and grandmother who deplored drunk driving.

"She often stayed up late to be the designated driver when friends or family attended social events, and that's what makes her death even harder to take," said Leah. "She was an exceptional woman.

Crown and defence lawyers jointly recommended the 41/2-year sentence, saying it's on the higher end of precedents for the offence.

The maximum is life in prison.

"Nothing is a fair sentence. I think it should be a life for a life," Jonas Chaikowsky, one of the victim's two sons, said outside court.

Langan had a statement to read Friday but elected to have his lawyer do it on the grounds he didn't want to show his face on camera.

"I've spent a lot of time wishing it was me that didn't walk away that day," Langan wrote.

"I can't even begin to try and understand their loss."

He blamed "one bad decision" for causing a lifetime of anguish.

"If any good can come from this it's that I can learn from my mistake," he said.

However, the Crown said this sort of tragedy could be seen from a mile away.

Langan had been on a downward spiral that resulted in a 2010 arrest in which he threatened a woman with an axe, robbed a 7-Eleven while carrying a weapon, smashed a parked car and struck several vehicles while intoxicated, court was told.

He pleaded guilty and was released from custody in December 2012.

He got alcohol and drug counselling but left the program before finishing it.

His driver's licence was returned in March 2013, and he killed Chaikowsky five months later.

"Life gave him a series of warnings that he was on the wrong path," said Ross. "But he persisted in a self-destructive cycle."

Langan had been driving his employer's pickup truck on the open curb lane while traffic in other lanes was heavy. He sped into the intersection, setting off a deadly chain reaction in which seven vehicles were struck. Six people were injured.

 

-- with files from James Turner

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2014 A3

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