Jill Taylor hugged her son Matthew and told him how proud she was as she dropped him off at Red Deer College, where he was to start school far from his Hay River, N.W.T., home in September 2010.
Two days later, her husband Mark took a 3 a.m. phone call from the hospital informing them that their son had been badly injured in a car accident. Within hours, they were at his bedside and spent the next 24 hours telling him how much they loved him before he died at the age of 18 on the day he was to start classes at the college.
“From that 3 a.m. phone call to now I am forever changed and my heart is broken,” Jill Taylor said, reading from a victim impact statement at the sentencing of 19-year-old Darith Rin, who was drunk behind the wheel of the vehicle Taylor and a friend were passengers in during the early hours of Sept. 7.
Rin, of Red Deer, pleaded guilty in Red Deer provincial court on Wednesday to impaired driving causing death and was sentenced to two years in prison by Judge Bruce Garriock. He will also be prohibited from driving for five years following a joint submission from the Crown prosecutor and defence. The Crown withdrew three other drunk driving-related charges.
Taylor described a sadness that made her feel “dead on the inside” and left her crying whenever she was alone. “I was, and am still, overwhelmed with grief.”
Her son was popular and an accomplished athlete, who represented the Northwest Territories midget team in hockey. In high school, where his mother teaches, he developed a program to provide after-school activities and discourage youngsters from turning to drugs. Her son’s legacy will live on through the program, she added.
Both she and her husband, and the parents of her son’s girlfriend, made the trip from Hay River for the sentencing. Matthew had one sibling, an older brother.
Outside court, Taylor thanked the emergency services responders and others who tried so hard to save their son’s life. “We’re so grateful for your first responders, who gave us 24 hours with Matt.”
Crown prosecutor Wayne Silliker said Rin, Taylor and a friend were out drinking the night of the collision.
Around 2:50 a.m., Rin was heading eastbound on 77th Street when he lost control of his vehicle near the intersection of 45th Ave. Close. The vehicle went into the north ditch, hit concrete posts and a fire hydrant.
Taylor, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the vehicle. He was taken to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and later transferred to an Edmonton hospital by STARS. Rin and the other passenger were taken to hospital with less serious injuries.
Rin’s blood was tested at the hospital and the alcohol reading was .220, nearly three times the legal driving limit of .08.
Defence lawyer Will Willms said Rin graduated from Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School and was a good student and athlete, playing basketball, badminton and volleyball, which he also coached. He had completed a year at Red Deer College and was planning to take a year off to make enough money to continue his studies.
Rin, who has little recollection of the evening, has no criminal record and is extremely remorseful, said Willms. The teen met with Matthew’s parents before court on Wednesday to apologize.
Rin told the court, as his parents and more than a dozen other supporters watched, that he “will never let that night leave my mind,” adding that his actions have hurt many.
“I just hope we can get some closure after this.
“All I can say is I’m sorry.”
Among those who came to offer their support to the Taylors was Aleta Neville, whose 21-year-old son Brent was killed by a drunk driver five years ago. She has been active with the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and started the non-profit Nev Foundation in her son’s memory to help other families impacted by similar preventable tragedies.
“(Rin) got two years, but basically the (Taylor) family got life,” said Neville. “It’s ridiculous the amount of our youth we’re losing to impaired driving.”