Driver sentenced for New Year’s crash

Roland Capilo will spend two years in jail for an accident near Cranbrook on January 1, 2012, that killed his 20-year-old niece.

It was an emotional day in Cranbrook court Thursday for the sentencing of Roland Capilo over the death of his niece, Brittany Capilo.

Roland Capilo was driving on New Year’s Day 2012 on the ?aq’am (St. Mary’s) reserve when the van crashed, killing 20-year-old Brittany.

After he pleaded guilty in May to dangerous driving causing death and failure to stop at an accident causing bodily harm, Roland Capilo’s sentencing was scheduled for Thursday, November 7, 2013 in Cranbrook Provincial Court.

Members of Brittany’s and Roland’s family were in court to hear the sentence, and Judge Ron Webb gave Capilo a chance to read a written apology to the family.

At times too emotional to speak, Capilo stood facing Brittany’s mother to offer his first apology since the incident.

“I never intended to harm her or anybody in the vehicle,” he said.

“There are times I wish that I went and not her.”

Capilo said the crash prompted him to stop drinking, and he has not had a drink since that day.

“Whenever New Year’s comes along, while everyone is out celebrating, I’ll be hurting, thinking of my niece Brittany who I loved so dearly.”

After Roland had finished speaking, Brittany’s mother responded through tears.

“I don’t hate you,” she said. “I just wanted to grieve with you.

“It’s not too late.”

Back in May when Capilo pleaded guilty, the court heard that the crash occurred on LD Ranch Road at around 5 a.m. on January 1, 2012.

There were five people in a Dodge van driven by Roland Capilo, and they had been driving back from the hoodoos on the reserve after celebrating the new year.

Occupants of the vehicle reported that Capilo had been drinking, and was driving at around 100 kilometres an hour.

Brittany Capilo was seated in the middle of the rear passenger seat and was not wearing a seatbelt.

Roland lost control of the vehicle, and it rolled six times before coming to a stop. Brittany was thrown about 25 metres from the van and died at the scene.

Roland fled the scene before RCMP arrived, but a police dog tracked the man down. He then told RCMP that he ran away because he was scared and didn’t know what to do.

On Thursday, Crown counsel told the judge that a sentence no less than two years would be appropriate. Judge Webb interrupted arguments to say there was no point going into why two years should be the minimum.

“I am hard pressed to find anything to support the notion that a sentence less than what is suggested by the Crown would be appropriate,” said Judge Webb. “The Crown is being extremely fair.”

The judge recognized the impact that the crash has had on the Capilo family and the ?aq’am community, and he said he understands that sending Roland Capilo to jail may not accomplish anything further.

But, Judge Webb said, the issue of deterrence is still important, pointing out that Capilo was driving between 80 kilometres an hour and 120 kilometres an hour on ice and gravel, after the passengers had urged him to slow down, after consuming between eight and 10 beer.

“Your behaviour after the fact was simply a panic driven situation,” said Judge Webb.

He asked Brittany’s mother for her position on the sentence sought by Crown.

She said that all she wanted was an apology from a man she had known most of her life.

“I feel bad that he has live with this memory for the rest of his life. But I have to live without a daughter for the rest of my life,” she said.

In the end, Judge Webb handed down a two-year sentence for Capilo: 18 months on the charge of dangerous driving causing death, and six months consecutive on the charge of failure to stop at an accident causing bodily harm. After he is released, Capilo will be on a two-year driving prohibition.

“I appreciate your efforts to maintain sobriety since the incident,” Judge Webb said to Capilo. “I hope that continues and I wish you well.

“This is nothing more than a tragedy. I hope you can get your life back on track and restore the relationships with your family.”