Driver who killed teen gets three years

Jean-Paul Kowal found guilty of dangerous driving causing death

A 42-year-old Kelowna man who crossed into the wrong lane on Highway 97A, killing a teenage driver who was coming the other way, was handed three years jail Thursday.

Jean-Paul Kowal was found guilty in March of dangerous driving causing death, but acquitted of impaired driving causing death. He will also serve a four-year driving ban.

After he was led away into custody, Diane Pippus, mother of Salmon Arm teen Donovan Pippus, killed on Sept. 1, 2010, piped up "rot in jail," to the driver who racked up a string of road offences in the past 15 years.

The trial and sentencing took a toll on the Pippus family, who turned out 13-strong Thursday. A family member read a statement from Diane, one of four tearful speeches heard in the courtroom.

"Donovan Pippus, my young, 17-year-old shining star, was killed by a cruel and unnecessary action," said the victim impact statement from Diane.

"I have one son dead and the others broken."

Kowal was alone in the courtroom and had no family present during the trial. Single and with one nine-year-old son who does not live with him, Kowal is a heavy equipment operator who commutes to Alberta to work in the logging industry.

In victim impact statements, family talked about the bright and hardworking Donovan, who had a paper route at 10 and would bicycle to weekend work as a cleanup boy at a sawmill.

The Grade 12 student was a talented metalworker and planned to go to trade school after graduation to become a millwright.

But that future was ended when Kowal's extended cab pickup veered into the oncoming lane on a corner of Highway 97A and smashed into Pippus's Sunfire, killing him instantly.

Kowal was convicted in 1999 of impaired driving. Seven years later he was again charged with impaired but later pleaded guilty to driving without due care and attention.

Together with Motor Vehicle Act offences, he was banned from driving 21 months in a six-and-a-half year span.

Prosecutor Angela Ross noted Kowal was hit with a ticket for driving without reasonable consideration a year after he killed Pippus. She asked for a three- to four-year sentence and a four- to five-year driving ban.

A conditional sentence order is no longer available to offenders after the Conservative government changed the law several years ago. The only question was the length of the jail term and driving ban.

Defence lawyer Rishi Gill said case law showed a sentence of one to 1 1/2 years was suitable. But he asked for a two-year federal sentence so Kowal could take programming.

Kowal did not speak during sentencing. Gill said he suffered from recent mini-strokes. He said his client was extremely remorseful.

"He will one day be a free man and be able to hold his son in his arms and be able to go on with his life," Gill acknowledged. "That option is not open to Donovan Pippus and not open to his family."

Dley found Kowal's driving in the minutes before the crash, including passing on a double-solid line and going through corners in the opposite lane, formed a pattern of dangerous and reckless driving.

Dley also said Kowal's pattern of bad driving started in 1999, at the time of his first impaired driving conviction.

"It's not a momentary or isolated act. The driving behaviour was a crash waiting to happen and displayed a wanton disregard for others on the highway."

Kowal took the stand in February and testified he fell asleep before the crash. He claimed he guzzled from bottles of schnapps and vodka immediately after the crash, a claim Dley ruled said had little air of reality.

But witnesses said he exhibited no signs of impairment after the crash, despite a blood-alcohol reading of more than two-and-a-half times the legal limit.

Dley found after trial there was reasonable doubt whether Kowal was drunk at the time.

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