Drake Reynes pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an impaired hit-and-run in July 2019. (Black Press Media file photo)

Drake Reynes pleaded guilty to charges stemming from an impaired hit-and-run in July 2019. (Black Press Media file photo)

Impaired driver gets 2.5 years for hit-and-run that left UVic student with severe brain trauma

Aisha Strange has not spoken, walked since she was struck in July 2019

The impaired driver who sped away from the scene after leaving 20-year-old Aisha Strange’s unresponsive body crumpled on the sidewalk has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and a three-year driving prohibition.

“In a matter of seconds on July 15, 2019, a number of lives were shattered and forever changed,” said provincial court judge Susan Wishart while delivering her decision. “[Strange] continues to suffer daily with ongoing medical crises that her family has to witness.”

She addressed the family, saying, “nothing this court can do will change or alleviate your suffering.”

Drake Reynes, 26, broke down several times during his sentencing hearing, which started Monday. Reynes had been drinking alcohol and consuming cocaine on July 14, 2019 – the night before he drove into Strange, who was stopped at a red light on her scooter, on route to her job at a summer camp.

Reynes fled the scene in his van and struck a hydro pole a few blocks away. From there he fled on foot, and upon arriving at a friend’s house, called 911 and admitted his role in the crash, something he continued to do when police arrived.

Reynes pleaded guilty to charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and impaired driving causing bodily harm. Provincial court judge imposed a two-and-a-half-year sentence for both charges, to be served concurrently.

READ ALSO: Man who hit UVic student promises victim’s family he will never drive under influence again

Strange, who was a third-year University of Victoria student at the time of the crash, suffered life-altering injuries, including severe brain injuries, fractures, nerve damage and chronic respiratory failure. She has been unable to speak or walk since she was struck and requires constant care.

“We can’t call this injury catastrophic and do it justice,” said prosecutor Paul Pearson. “We don’t even want to stare into that reality or think about it happening to someone we love. Mr. Reynes and the court must stare directly into that darkness and that pain.”

Sixteen victim impact statements from family and friends were submitted to the court, six of which were read aloud on Monday, explaining how difficult it has been to watch Strange suffer, and the impact her injuries have had on their own lives – emotionally, financially and physically.

“Watching someone you love, suffer day after day while you look on helplessly creates an almost constant, aching emotional pain,” said Strange’s father, Kevin. “I believe that when Drake Reynes crushed my daughter, he also broke my heart.”

Reynes also spoke in court Monday, apologizing repeatedly to the family and promising never again to get behind the wheel of a car while impaired.

The court heard how Reynes’s own father was killed in a car crash when Reynes was an eight-year-old child. His mother then began to abuse substances and although family stepped in, Reynes was primarily on his own from the age of 15 onwards. He struggled with substance abuse himself, drinking to excess on weekends and using street drugs.

Wishart noted that Reynes has taken responsibility for his actions and feels remorse – as demonstrated by his strong emotional reaction to hearing victim impact statements from Strange’s family and seeing Strange herself appear by video.

“When he spoke yesterday during the sentencing hearing, he directed his comments to the court but also to Aisha’s family,” Wishart said. “He did not make excuses or try to downplay his culpability at any time.”

Reynes will serve two and a half years in federal prison, followed by a three-year driving probation.

READ ALSO: Woman in coma since Saanich hit-and-run flown to Calgary


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