Karen Longwell, Metroland Media
CAMPBELLFORD – A grieving family has mixed emotions about a four-year jail sentence handed down after a head-on collision killed two men last year.
Bryon David Davis, 53, of Fullarton, and his brother-in-law Andy Verhoeve, 50, of Stratford were killed in the early morning of May 21, 2011, when the van they were travelling in collided with a Honda. They were on their way to a fishing trip in Trenton, according to court documents.
In April, Campbellford resident Michael Layton pleaded guilty in a Cobourg court to two charges of impaired driving causing death and two counts of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death.
In Brighton court on June 19, he was sentenced to four years in jail and a five-year driving prohibition to begin at the end of his jail term.
The family has mixed feelings about the court’s ruling, said Verhoeve’s son Scott Verhoeve, in a telephone interview about a month after the sentencing.
“It still seems like not a lot of punishment for killing two people,” said Scott Verhoeve.
On that fateful night more than a year ago, the van’s driver, Harold Davis – Bryon’s brother – had just crested a hill on County Road 30, between the 9th and 10th Lines, when he saw the northbound Honda in the southbound lane, he told police. Harold Davis tried to avoid the Honda, but it swerved back and they collided head on.
Bryon Davis died at the scene. Verhoeve was airlifted to St. Michael’s Hospital, where he died hours later.
The driver of the Honda, Layton, was 19 years old at the time. He was lying conscious, face down in the west ditch when police arrived.
“I am so stupid. I fell asleep,” Layton told police at the accident scene, according to court testimony.
A toxicology test revealed Layton’s ability to operate a motor vehicle would have been impaired with his level of blood alcohol concentration, court records state. Layton had worked the day before, and afterward he played golf, watched a hockey game and then drove to a number of acquaintances’ homes, according to court records.
Scott Verhoeve said many members of the family attended the court proceedings in Cobourg and Brighton. Family members wanted to read victim impact statements and support each other, he said.
“It was a difficult thing to sit through,” he said.
Andy Verhoeve’s parents, Gene and Annie Verhoeve, spoke about how hard it was to bury a child, in victim impact statements heard in court.
“The emptiness from Andy’s death haunts us daily,” said Annie Verhoeve in her statement. Tammy Davis, Bryon Davis’s fiancee, spoke about an “unbearable” pain. “The future is unimaginable without him,” she said.
Layton seemed subdued and was quiet during the court proceedings, Scott Verhoeve said. His family members were also in court and were visibly upset, said Verhoeve.
“It was not a good day for his family,” he said. According to court documents, Layton had a stable upbringing, had finished high school and completed a one-year apprenticeship as a gas technician. Letters from the community spoke highly of Layton.
The incident could have easily been prevented, said Andy Verhoeve’s wife Anne Verhoeve in an email.
“Drivers need to plan their rides home before they go to social events,” said Anne Verhoeve. “Alcohol consumption does not help anyone make a good decision.”
Parents need to talk to their children about drinking and driving, she said.
“It changes lives forever,” she said.
Impaired driving is one of the major causes of death in Canada and it is preventable, added Scott Verhoeve.
“It is a simple thing to plan a ride home,” he said. “If they could experience what my family has experienced. There are consequences.”