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Man found guilty of killing three young people in drunk-driving crash

WETASKIWIN, Alta. — A judge has convicted a drunk driver of manslaughter for killing three young men when he plowed through their car at almost 200 km/h.

Jonathan Pratt had pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which also included impaired driving causing death and driving over .08 causing death. His defence lawyer had argued that his client wasn’t driving the truck.

But Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Belzil said there wasn’t any evidence to suggest anyone else was at the scene. He said it would have been “practically impossible” for another person to escape uninjured and walk away.

The judge found Pratt guilty on all charges. However, he granted a Crown request to stay the convictions on driving over .08. A legal principle doesn’t allow convictions on separate charges with overlapping elements.

Court heard Pratt’s blood alcohol level was about three times above the legal limit when his truck rear-ended and virtually demolished the car near Beaumont, just south of Edmonton, in November 2011.

Belzil said Pratt showed wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of other people on a road where the posted speed limit was 70 km/h.

Pratt, 30, was found under his truck and spent six weeks in hospital with a broken leg and head injuries. Firefighters and police officers searched the area, but he was the only person found near the truck.

Bradley Arsenault and Kole Novak, both 18, and Thaddeus Lake, 22, were inside the car.

Arsenault’s mother, Sheri Arsenault, has met twice with federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay to discuss possible changes to Canada’s impaired driving legislation.

Arsenault is a spokeswoman for a group called Families for Justice, which is collecting names on a petition demanding a mandatory minimum sentence of five years for convictions of impaired driving causing death. The petition also calls for the Criminal Code to redefine the offence as vehicular manslaughter.

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