A Crawford Bay man is appealing his 2½ year jail sentence for an all-terrain vehicle crash north of Riondel that claimed his friend’s life.
Cory Medhurst was convicted last December in Creston Provincial Court of driving with a blood alcohol reading over .08 and criminal negligence causing the death of Brandon Salviulo, 20.
Judge Grant Sheard gave Medhurst 24 months on the first charge and 30 months on the second, to be served concurrently, and also banned him for driving for three years.
Court heard that on July 12, 2009 the two men were manning a checkpoint during an ATV poker run raising money for the Riondel fire department. Both were drinking beer and neither wore a helmet. On their way home, they were going about 70 km/h on a logging road when their ATV went down an embankment. Salviulo died on the scene of severe head injuries.
According to the ruling, Medhurst’s blood alcohol content was between .22 and .26, about three times the legal limit, while Salviulo’s was .06. The central issue for the judge to decide was who was driving.
Four witnesses — two paramedics and two fellow ATVers who responded to Medhurst’s cries for help — testified that immediately after the incident, Medhurst told them repeatedly “I killed my best friend” and “I killed Brandon.”
One paramedic said Medhurst explained Salviulo tapped him on the shoulder, and when he turned his head, the ATV veered right and went over the bank.
However, when Medhurst gave a statement to police two months later, he said he couldn’t remember who was driving. Soon after he told them Salviulo had been at the wheel, and repeated this at trial. He argued his earlier statements to paramedics were unreliable given his emotional and physical state.
But the judge rejected his testimony as inconsistent and contradictory and convicted him on both counts.
Medhurst is married with a young daughter and co-proprietor of Kootenay Forge, a blacksmith shop at Crawford Bay that employed six people who were laid off pending the outcome of the case.
At sentencing, Medhurst submitted more than 100 letters of reference, six of which were entered into the record.
“There has been no issue with respect to his behaviour since the incident,” Sheard wrote. “He is a dedicated volunteer in his small community … His volunteerism began before these offences. They are not contrived.”
Medhurst was a firefighter and emergency medical responder and has taken counselling since the incident, the judge added.
The Crown asked for a jail sentence of three years plus a five-year driving ban while the defence countered with a request for 90 days to be served on weekends plus community service and probation. The defence argued a lengthy jail sentence would likely mean the end of Medhurst’s business and financial ruin for his family.
The judge noted that following criminal code changes in 2007, conditional sentences aren’t allowed in cases of “serious personal injury.”
Salviulo’s parents, sister, foster sister, and a family friend all read victim impact statements in court, from which Sheard concluded “the profound impact of these offences is particularly apparent … They continue to experience the pain of their loss on a daily basis.”
Sheard ruled alcohol, speed, and the fact Medhurst didn’t ensure Salviulo wore a helmet were all aggravating factors, but they were mitigated by Medhurst’s clean driving record and lack of criminal history.
“He is otherwise of good character and a very positive member of his community,” the judge wrote. “All the evidence suggests this is a one-time tragic event.”
Medhurst’s lawyer Don Skogstad said in an interview an appeal of the verdict has been filed and is expected to be heard in Kelowna but not for at least six months. In the meantime, Medhurst is serving his sentence in the Lower Mainland.
“There’s no current intention to apply for bail. Maybe later,” he said.
Skogstad said Salviulo’s death was a “terrible tragedy for such a small place” but Medhurt is “extremely well-regarded in the community.”
“Never in my career — and it’s a long one now — have I seen that many letters of support for anyone,” he said.
However, Salviulo’s family thinks Sheard made the right decision.
“We believe the judge was correct in his verdict of guilty,” Salviulo’s father Enzo told the Star. “Mr. Medhurst will never serve as severe a sentence as my wife and I due to his actions that led to the death of our son.”
Following Brandon’s death the Salviulo family created a scholarship fund in his memory to help students in the professional firefighter training program at College of the Rockies. Brandon was hoping to become a firefighter.
For each of the last three years, they have hosted a weekend family event in Riondel to raise money for the scholarship. However, Enzo said the event will likely be scaled back this year due to strain on volunteers.