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Defiant Arens vows to appeal conviction in fatal crash

Rodney Ross Arens, sentenced on Thursday for charges laid after a fatal crash in Red Deer almost four years ago, left the courtroom vowing that his fight is not over.

“I’m going to appeal,” Arens, 36, said as sheriffs took him from the prisoner’s box in Court of Queen’s Bench in his first steps toward a prison sentence of five years and nine months, passed by Justice Kirk Sisson.

Family members speaking outside the courtroom afterward said his last words were a stark display of the absolute lack of remorse Arens has shown since the late evening of July 1, 2010. Shortly after 11 p.m., Arens was arrested at the scene of a crash that killed a Red Deer teenager, severely wounded his older brother and devastated his entire family.

Stephanie, Jamie and Jeffrey Chanminaraj had spent the day with their father, celebrating his 48th birthday. Stephanie, 20 at the time, was driving her brothers down to Bower Ponds to watch the Canada Day fireworks.

She was turning off Taylor Drive and onto Kerry Wood Drive when Arens rammed his pickup truck into the passenger side of her small car.

Jeffrey, 13, died in the impact.

Jamie, 18, was airlifted to Foothills Hospital in Calgary with severe injuries that would require a series of surgeries and months of treatment.

Arens was charged with multiple offences, including impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, breaching a court order that he abstain from drinking, and three counts of refusing to provide a breath sample after a fatal or injury collision.

The refusal charges were withdrawn during trial and Arens was found guilty on Tuesday of the balance of the charges.

During sentencing submissions on Thursday, Arens sniffled and wiped tears from his eyes when offered a chance to speak to his sentence.

“I’m just very sorry that I was involved in such a tragic event,” Arens said, turning the palms of his hands toward the ceiling and looking into the gallery, where Stephanie and Jamie sat with their father and other family members.

A self-employed building contractor at the time of his arrest, Arens said he had also felt the impact of the collision, including the financial burden, the damage to his reputation, losing his job and losing contact with his two daughters and their mother.

Sisson thanked Arens for a sincere sign of remorse, then remarked that it seemed self serving.

“I believe you made a sincere apology. However, it’s apparent you’re feeling as sorry for yourself as for the family. I have to say ... this is what happens when you choose to break the law. The fact remains that you brought this upon yourself.”

Reiterating submissions by Crown prosecutor Wayne Silliker, Sisson said there was a significant number of aggravating factors in the sentence he imposed, including a conviction in 1997 for impaired driving and a ticket a few years later for driving 50 km/h over the posted speed limit.

Regardless of the fact that Arens was impaired by alcohol, he was speeding across the Taylor Drive Bridge toward an intersection that was crowded with people, knowing full well that Canada Day celebrations would soon be underway, said Sisson. Regardless of whether the traffic control light was green or yellow, Arens “punched it” as he approached the intersection, striking the Chanminaraj vehicle, he said.

Sisson also addressed Arens’s numerous attempts to stall court proceedings.

“It appears, from what I see, that you went to great lengths to avoid responsibility for your actions.”

Sisson passed a global sentence of five years and nine months, minus 185 days for the time Arens served in pre-trial custody. Arens is also prohibited from driving for 10 years.

He returns to court in January of next year, when he will stand trial on charges laid on Dec. 22, 2013, of having care and control of a vehicle while impaired and possession of drugs for trafficking.

In custody since then, Arens has served a 60-day sentence passed after he pleaded guilty to breaching release conditions and driving a vehicle that did not have the appropriate ignition interlock device. The device prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol in the driver’s breath.

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