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Dump truck driver jailed 14 months for fatal crash
The man found guilty of dangerous driving causing death in connection with the head-on crash that killed South Surrey resident Jim Neiss has been sentenced to 14 months in jail.
Glen Edward Theriault learned his fate – which includes a four-year driving ban – Friday afternoon in Surrey Provincial Court.
In imposing the term, Judge Paul Dohm said it had to be enough to "strongly denounce" the driving behaviour that resulted in Neiss' death.
At the same time, he acknowledged that incarcerating the 65-year-old "will not help him or his family."
Neiss, 59, died on Jan. 18, 2011 when his SUV was struck head-on by Theriault's dump truck as Neiss drove east along 16 Avenue en route to his job as a Langley school-bus driver.
Theriault had just crossed a double-yellow line in an effort to pass two vehicles when the collision occurred. The court heard during trial that Theriault told police the move was "a bad three-second decision."
In rendering his guilty verdict last November, Dohm described that same decision as "conscious, deliberate, risky."
"No reasonable person would even consider driving in the manner the accused did in this case," he said.
Friday, an emotional Theriault apologized to the court and Neiss's wife of 20 years, Brenda Michie.
"There is no words that can ever undo what happened," he said.
"From the bottom of my heart, I apologize, for everything.
"I just pray that someday you'll forgive me."
Outside court, prior to the sentence and after reading her own emotional victim-impact statement, Michie told Peace Arch News that she trusted that the judge would make the right decision. Regardless, "it's not going to change anything for me," she said.
"I just came because I want to see it through to the end."
Michie told the court her life had been forever changed by the death of Neiss, who she described as her "soulmate."
"I miss my entire life," she said.
Prosecutor Winston Sayson had asked Dohm to impose a jail term in the range of 18 to 24 months and a five-year prohibition, arguing that as someone who drove for a living, Theriault "knew better" than to drive as he did that fateful morning.
"The disobedience of the law by Mr. Theriault has caused significant grief and harm," Sayson said.
Defence counsel Rishi Gill argued for a suspended sentence, with a lengthy probation, lengthy driving prohibition and extensive community service.
He noted Theriault was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the incident and has sought extensive professional help.
"It was not a pattern of behaviour. It was an extremely wrong decision," Gill said, describing Theriault as an "active member of his church, a devoted family man and a devoted friend" who will never drive a commercial truck again.
"Jail is not always the answer – and especially in this case. There is nothing constructive that can happen, we say, by sending Mr. Theriault to jail."
Following sentencing, Theriault hugged wife Rose and son Ezra goodbye, emptied his pockets and was escorted out by the sheriff.