The man charged with impaired driving in a horrific crash on Highway 401 that claimed the lives of a mother and her five-year-old daughter in the summer of 2017 has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
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Sarah Payne, 42, and her daughter Freya, 5, died after a pickup truck crossed the 401 into the westbound lanes of the highway near Dutton and hit their minivan. Payne’s six-year-old son was also injured in the crash, spent a month in hospital, and required plastic surgery, neurosurgery, and several more medical appointments after being discharged.
Hubert Domonchuk, 54, of Cambridge was charged one month after the fatal August 29 crash.
Andrew Payne told court on Monday that he wonders daily the kind of hell his brother, Mike Payne, is going through.
“Both of my brother’s girls are gone… killed on a trip to the cottage. Senseless, random, unnecessary.”
He looked directly at Dumonchuk during a pointed victim impact statement and said “the defendant has hurt us, and I want him to know that.”
Sarah’s step-sister Genevieve Laughlin’s sons were age two and four at the time of the crash. She remembers her youngest son was close with Freya, and asked him recently whether he remembered the five year old girl.
“He doesn’t,” she sobbed.
Allyson Storey is a longtime friend of the Payne family and has become an advocate for a median on the stretch of 401 between London and Tilbury dubbed “Carnage Alley.”
“There are no words to describe the grief and pain,” she said, describing her anguish at the funeral where one of the caskets was “so terribly small.”
David Miles, who lost both his daughter and granddaughter in the crash, told the courthouse that he felt cheated. He described Freya as a “light” in the family, while his daughter taught him to be a better father and a better man.
“Grief. It gets into your bones,” he said. “Mine is a life sentence.”
B.J. Willis, Sarah Payne’s step-mom, leaves the courthouse with a group of other family members and friends during a sentencing hearing for Hubert Domonchuk.Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL
Both Miles and B.J. Willis, Sarah’s step-mother, refused to call the August 29 crash an accident noting that it implies an innocent mishap.
“There’s no fixing things, no making it better,” said Willis, who said Sarah was both a step-daughter and a friend.
“Words become meaningless and we all continue to drift.”
More than once, loved ones used the word “framily.” It was a word Sarah created to describe when friends become family, explained Christine Wilton.
“Freya always made me feel special. She had a natural empathy like her mom.”
Wilton said she now struggles with fear and anxiety when loved ones travel and will sometimes wake up at night and check to make sure everyone’s cars are in the driveway.
The Crown and defence made a joint submission requesting eight years in prison, noting that Domonchuk had 43 driving-related convictions to his name already, 22 of them for speeding. They also requested a DNA order and a three year driving probation.
Crown attorney Craig Sigurdson noted that Domonchuk’s pickup was going 120 km/h after it crossed a grass median into the path of the minivan, adding that Sarah was an innocent driver that couldn’t have avoided the crash.
About an hour before it happened, Sigurdson said Domonchuk tailgated another driver and jerked his wheel, causing the other driver to swerve to avoid a crash. A partly empty bottle of vodka was found in his truck, as were two bottles of Crown Royal.
Defence lawyer Tom Brock told court that his client had a normal childhood and family life. His current common law partner of four years and his 25-year-old daughter were in court for the hearing.
“It will be the first jail sentence for this offender,” said Brock.
Finally, before the judge delivered his sentencing decision, Domonchuk took the stand to apologize to the Payne family and friends.
“I can never change the fact that your family is without a wife and a sister,” he said.
“If I could take it back, I would. I have no greater regrets than what I have caused you. I want you to know how sorry I am.”
After being sentenced to eight years, Domonchuk was led from the courtroom in handcuffs and waved to his family as he was escorted out the door by police.