In the flash of a moment, four friends vacationing in the Okanagan had their lives changed forever when a vehicle careened into theirs on a beautiful summer day in Oliver on July 21, 2017.
What was supposed to be a nice drive along Vaseux Lake turned to hell in an instant for Laurie and Warren Hamm and their friends Charles De Grout and Susan Carly. The crash left Laurie Hamm a quadriplegic.
The man who caused this carnage, Silous Paul was in Penticton Supreme Court on Friday to be sentenced. Paul, who is now 22, will serve nine months in jail, followed by one-year probation and a three-year driving ban for four counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm. The crash left Victoria native Laurie Hamm a quadriplegic and her husband Warren with permanent injuries. The other couple in the vehicle will sustain lifelong pain.
The court heard heartbreaking victim impact statements from all of the victims and the Hamm children.
“This selfish act changed our lives forever. Now my wife has no use of her legs, limited use of her arms, no bladder or bowel control,” said Warren Ham. “I’ve become a full-time caregiver. I am reminded daily that I will never have a relationship with my wife again.”
When the crash happened, Laurie could be heard saying ‘I can’t move.’ She screamed out, “God, don’t let me paralyzed,” De Grout recalled in his impact statement.
Susan Carly was unable to breathe from the impact to her chest. By a miracle, someone had oxygen that was provided to Susan until emergency responders arrived. Warren was also severely injured.
“It was pandemonium,” De Grout recalled.
“By then the other vehicle had caught fire and I was trapped. My ankle was jammed under the gas pedal. They had to use the Jaws of Life to get me out. Lives ruined from one selfish act.”
The court learned that Paul had been partying in Osoyoos that night but that next morning he got word that his cousin in Penticton had just committed suicide.
Grief-stricken he took his Chrysler 300, driving dangerously, overtaking cars to get to Penticton when he took a sharp corner too fast, crossing into oncoming traffic and crashing violently into the Hamms and De Grout’s vehicle.
De Grout said Warren and Laurie were healthy, well-liked teachers who had just retired and were looking forward to golfing and other activities.
The Hamms daughter Keegen said there has not been a single moment of joy in three years for her parents.
“The life she had planned has all been taken away from her now. She was fiercely independent and now she needs help to take a sip of water or move hair from her face.
“My dad has his own health issues but those must be put on the back burner while he cares for my mom. This life he has is not sustainable. I haven’t seen them happy in three years.”
De Grout spoke of how the crash impacted him and his wife.
“None of us will ever be over the physical and emotional pain and there was no valid reason for Silous’ actions that day,” he said.
But in his victim impact statement, Mr. Grout forgave Silous.
“I forgive you and ask you to pay it forward to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Paul did address his victims on Friday.
“I am sincerely sorry for the damage I caused. I’m not going to repeat this ever again.”
In her sentencing, Justice Beames said the harm done is ‘incalculable’ all from a ‘thoughtless and selfish act.’
“Given your youth, your status as Indigenous and your remorse, this is an appropriate sentence.”
The judge also ordered Paul to watch a video the Hamm family made called, “A Day in the Life of Laurie.”
She ordered Paul to write an essay on the video and the harm he has caused and submit it to his probation officer. She also ordered him to 50 hours of community service, hopefully to be served in a rehab centre so he understand the harm he caused.
She also ordered him to pay Laurie Hamm $150 per month for 12 months.
“We understand this was a mistake. You are not a criminal. My hope is that you can go back to contributing.”