The question of whether a Mission man was using his cellphone at the time he rear-ended another vehicle, resulting in the death of two people in October 2010, became a key point during his sentencing hearing on Friday in Abbotsford provincial court.
Steven Lineker, 36, was initially charged with two counts of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
He pleaded guilty earlier this year to the lesser charge of driving a vehicle without due care and attention.
Lineker was driving his Dodge pickup east on Lougheed Highway between Manson Street and Dewdney Trunk Road on Oct. 16, 2010, when he rear-ended a Chevy Cavalier that had stopped to make a left turn into a mobile home park.
The impact sent the car into oncoming traffic, and it collided with a Mazda Protege.
Lenore Hopkins, 76, the passenger in the Cavalier, was killed, as was Anthony Shaves, 33, the driver of the Mazda.
The driver of the Cavalier was critically injured and spent months in a coma in hospital, but survived.
Crown counsel Wayne Norris said phone records indicate Lineker used his cellphone on three occasions during a three-minute period around the crash.
One of those calls occurred at 3:44, the estimated time of the collision.
“His attention was not focused on driving,” Norris said.
Defence lawyer David Forsyth said Lineker was using a legal hands-free bluetooth device during the calls, with the last one taking place more than one minute before the crash.
Forsyth said a call that was recorded as having taken place about the time of the collision actually occurred immediately afterwards, when Lineker called his wife to tell her what had happened.
Forsyth said the crash occurred because Lineker was distracted by a driver who was tailgating him. Lineker was watching the driver in his side and rearview mirrors, looked ahead to see that the car in front of him had stopped, and slammed on his brakes, but it was too late, Forsyth said.
The incident was due to “momentary inattention,” and Lineker takes full responsibility for that, Forsyth added.
He said that since the accident, Lineker, a married man with two children, has suffered from depression, nightmares and suicidal thoughts, and has been filled with regret and remorse.
The judge’s decision on sentencing has been reserved.
Norris recommended that Lineker be sentenced to a jail term of four to six months, a $2,000 fine and a four-year driving prohibition.
He urged the judge to “send a strong message” to drivers in B.C.
“Every day, we witness the carnage that occurs on the highways because people are being inattentive.”
Forsyth recommended a fine, a driving suspension and probation but said if the judge feels a jail term is necessary, 10 to 21 days would be appropriate.
Family members of both of the deceased, as well as of Lineker, were in the courtroom.
Hopkins, who was fondly known throughout the community as “Ma,” helped start the Fraser Valley Toy Run in 1987 and played a vital role in its success over the next 23 years. She was killed the day before the 24th annual run was scheduled to take place, but the event proceeded in her memory.
“The worst feeling of all is that she died by the actions of another,” Hopkins’ daughter Deborah Creelman said in the victim impact statement she read in court.
“Many people looked up to mom for guidance and support.”
Shaves, who was training to be an electrician, had purchased a home with his girlfriend not long before the crash, and the two had an engagement ring on layaway.
In her victim impact statement, his mom Gabriel Hoffer said she has taken down all his photographs from her house because it “agonizes” her to look at them.