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North Vancouver driver sentenced in death of cyclist

A North Vancouver driver who struck and killed a cyclist on Keith Road a year ago has been fined and received a driving ban.
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A North Vancouver driver who struck and killed a cyclist on Keith Road a year ago has been fined and received a driving ban.

Rhys Howie, 33, pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention for his role in the death of Lukas Drake, on July 30, 2017. He was handed a $1,500 fine and one-year driving ban at his sentencing on Thursday.

 Floral tributes surround a “ghost bike” memorial on Shavington Street for a cyclist killed in a nearby collision, in this image taken days after the July 2017 crash. file photo Kevin Hill, North Shore NewsFloral tributes surround a “ghost bike” memorial on Shavington Street for a cyclist killed in a nearby collision, in this image taken days after the July 2017 crash. file photo Kevin Hill, North Shore News

Drake, 41, was riding east, down the hill on Keith Road when Howie, who was coming in the opposite direction, turned “as if it was a last-minute decision” in front of him at Shavington Street. Drake struck the passenger side of the car, according to a witness statement.

“Due to catastrophic head and internal injuries suffered by Mr. Drake, he was pronounced dead at the scene,” Crown prosecutor Jean McPherson told the court. “Both windows were shattered and pieces of Mr. Drake’s bicycle helmet were embedded in the door of the vehicle.”

Howie was in tears following the crash while he and other witnesses waited for police and ambulance to arrive.

Glare from the setting sun in Howie’s eyes was a contributing factor, the Crown said. But, McPherson added, that meant Howie should have shown a higher level of care and attention, which he failed to do.

“It is a sobering reminder that driving is an inherently dangerous activity,” McPherson said.

Drake’s widow Sheryl was too emotionally distraught to make a victim impact statement in the courtroom, although the Crown did read out a letter from her on her behalf.

Drake was planning to ride his road bike up all three North Shore Mountains in one day. He had already completed Hollyburn and Grouse and was on his way to Seymour when he was killed, Sheryl wrote in her letter.

The two had been married for six years and were planning to start a family and a business together. Drake’s death has impacted her emotionally, physically and financially in ways she may not recover from, she added.

“Now all our future plans are suddenly gone. Nothing to look forward to – a life with my husband, a life until we get old, a family together that we’ve always wanted and were excited about. I’m scared, clueless and uncertain about what’s going to happen to my life,” Sheryl said in her letter.

Since Drake’s death, Howie has suffered from depression, difficulty sleeping, feelings of guilt, and nightmares, his lawyer David Forsyth said.

Instead of a driving ban, Forsyth argued Howie be fined and sentenced to community service. Because of poor transit options, Howie drives to and from his late-night shifts as a supervisor at a grocery store at UBC.

“Anything your honour does here today, it won’t be enough in the eyes of most,” Forsyth said.

But compared to other cases in which someone was sentenced for driving without due care and attention resulting in death, Howie’s “moral culpability was at the lowest possible end of the spectrum,” Forsyth added.

Judge Gurmail Gill said Howie will carry the burden of his “momentary lapse” likely for the rest of his life; however, taking Howie’s licence for one year would send the appropriate message.

“One cannot put into words the impact a loss of life under these types of circumstances has on friends and family. … The purpose of my sentence today is not one to extract vengeance or in any way compensate for the loss that has resulted,” he said. “The public must know the consequences of even inadvertent negligence resulting in the loss of life will carry with it at least a risk of losing driving privileges so as to ensure that those members of the public take greater care in exercising the vigilance required that is associated to those driving privileges.”

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