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‘His life was worth more than mine’ driver in fatal Highway 97 crash tells court

Joseph McArthur-Pereira is facing one charge of driving without due care for the fatal 2022 crash
Police look for witnesses to a head on collision that closed Highway 97 in Kaleden for all of Thursday, Sept. 29. (Facebook)

The wife of a man killed on Sept. 29, 2022, and the driver behind the wheel of the vehicle that killed him both spoke before a Penticton judge on Aug. 25, 2023.

Joseph McArthur-Pereira appeared in court via video from the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital for his sentencing appearance for the fatal motorhome crash. McArthur-Pereira was charged with one count of driving without due care or attention under the Motor Vehicle Act.

McArthur-Pereira had been out at the time of the crash on conditions laid down by the BC Review Board following a finding that he was not criminally responsible due to mental illness for attempting to set fire to the Osoyoos RCMP detachment in 2019.

According to the facts entered for the sentencing, McArthur-Pereira had been driving in his camper-van north along Highway 97 towards Penticton when he heard something fall behind him. When he turned to look, the camper van steered across the curve and into oncoming traffic.

Despite an attempt by the motorhome driver to avoid the crash, the two vehicles collided close to the divider between the slow and fast lanes of the southbound lane, almost an entire full lane in the wrong direction that McArthur-Pereira had crossed into.

First responders had to extract both the victim and McArthur-Pereira from their respective vehicles. McArthur-Pereira was embedded in the windshield of his vehicle. At the scene, witnesses recalled hearing him ask whether he was going to die and whether he had killed anyone while he was embedded in the windshield.

READ MORE: Motorhome driver dies after head-on collision that closed Highway 97 near Penticton

McArthur-Pereira, the driver of the motorhome and the driver’s wife who was also in the vehicle were all taken to Kelowna General Hospital. The driver of the motorhome would later succumb to his injuries. His wife continues to suffer from physical, mental and emotional trauma from the incident.

The death was also devastating for the victim’s 21-year-old son, the court was told, and for the many friends of the family.

“The impact was so forceful that when you hit us, it snapped the wheel off and I found it months later, 200 feet from the carnage site we created, completely intact with the hub and brake assembly,” said the victim’s wife. “You and your choices have destroyed me. You have decimated my life, my heart, my joy, shattered that all over the road.

“I struggle keeping my tears at bay just to get through each hour of each day. I struggle to find out how to move forward alone. I struggle with the emptiness within the house that will never again be filled with his laughter, his voice, or his happiness.”

The maximum sentence that Pereira can face under the Motor Vehicle Act charge he is facing is a six-month jail term and up to a $2,000 fine. In their submissions, Crown counsel said they were seeking 45 days in jail, followed by an 18-month driving prohibition

“The Crown acknowledges that no sentence passed by this court can ever redress the loss suffered,” said the Crown.

Defence for McArthur-Pereira argued for a probation order with a requirement of counselling or coursework, and that if the judge decides on a driving prohibition, then a six to 12-month, and if a fine then only the minimum given the lack of means available.

Following the submissions from the lawyers, McArthur-Pereira was given a chance to speak, where he acknowledged the damage he had done.

“I want to start by saying I’m not asking for forgiveness, that’s too much. I simply want you to know that I understand what I have done. Killing a human being, even if it’s an accident, is unforgivable.

“If I myself had lost somebody I love like this, I would never be able to forgive that.”

McArthur-Peraira added that he had gone and taken the time to learn about the victim. He said that he had learned a lot and said that the victim was a good man with a good family and that he was crushed by what he had done.

“In the hospital, in constant pain, I tried to overdose myself, thinking that even if I did recover I didn’t deserve to have any sort of life after that,” said McArthur-Pereira. “I don’t know how to live with it, his life was worth more than mine and somehow I lived.”

Following the presentations of case law and the factors in the case, along with the victim impact statements and McArthur-Pereira’s words, the judge asked for time to review the material and come up with a decision.

A separate decision regarding his breach of the conditions set by the BC Review Board is scheduled for a disposition on Sept. 15.

No date has yet been scheduled for the decision on this case.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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