Father of Calgary crash victim tells court he visits son’s grave daily

The father of a toddler who was killed when a cement truck driver slammed into a car at an intersection, crushing the vehicle almost beyond recognition and killing five people inside, says he visits his son’s grave every day.

CALGARY — The father of a toddler who was killed when a cement truck driver slammed into a car at an intersection, crushing the vehicle almost beyond recognition and killing five people inside, says he visits his son’s grave every day.

“The pain, hurt and sadness on many days brings me to my knees,” Lee Morrison read from his victim impact statement Wednesday at Daniel Tschetter’s sentencing hearing for manslaughter.

“I try so hard to look at his colour photo on the headstone with a smile, and think of the great times we had and talk to him as if he was still with me.”

Morrison often paused during his testimony to wipe away tears that ran down his cheeks, his voice choking as he spoke softly.

He stared intently at Tschetter from across the courtroom many times as he described an empty life without the son he said he had waited a lifetime for.

Tschetter was convicted earlier this year in the deaths of 16-month-old Zachary Morrison; his mother, Melaina Hovdebo, 33; Chris Gautreau, 41; and his two daughters, Alexia, 9, and Kiarra, 6.

Court heard Tschetter was driving his massive cement truck erratically and at high speeds on Dec. 7, 2007, before he smashed into their car, which was stopped at a red light on a major Calgary roadway.

Witnesses testified that after the crash, Tschetter climbed up to the back of the truck and threw a vodka bottle into the massive drum.

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Previna Jiawan-Gautreau, mother of the dead girls and wife of Gautreau, described how she missed every-day moments with her daughters such as curling up in front of the TV or combing tangles from their hair.

“I will never feel their soft touches, warm hugs … gentle kisses again,” she said, crying gently.

“I will never hear Alexia and Kiarra call me Mommy ever again.”

She said she feels lost and alone and awakens, frantic, from nightmares that she can never remember and wishes would stop.

“My shower now is my crying room. It’s the only place that no one asks me if I’m OK.”

Crown lawyer Jonathan Hak argued that Tschetter should be sentenced to prison for between 10 and 15 years on the manslaughter conviction. He added the truck driver should also face a sentence of 12 to 18 months for obstructing justice by tossing the vodka bottle.

Tschetter, who expressed little remorse at the time of the horrific crash but called a co-worker later to make sure his truck was OK, should also be given a lifetime ban on driving, Hak said.

Defence lawyer Balfour Der was to make his sentencing arguments in the afternoon. But he has suggested previously that a community-based sentence would be appropriate for Tschetter, who has been free on bail.

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