A Kamloops man who was behind the wheel of the pickup truck that struck and killed Thompson Rivers University employee Lucy Phua more than a year ago has had his driving privileges restricted.
David Mathew Tucker, 43, pleaded guilty this week to one count of driving without due care and attention, under the Motor Vehicle Act, in connection to the Nov. 19, 2019, collision. Phua, 54, was struck and killed that night as she was walking to TRU via a crosswalk at McGill Road and University Drive.
Justice Ray Phillips accepted a joint submission on sentencing from defence lawyer Daniel McNamee and prosecutor Frank Caputo that will see Tucker pay a $2,000 fine and serve an 18-month probation term prohibiting him from driving except for work and running certain family errands. Tucker is employed by a local landscaping company, which involves him having to drive around town for work.
Court heard Tucker had a couple of drinks after work and was leaving a liquor store at the Landmark development when the crash took place at about 5:30 p.m., after sunset, on Nov. 19, 2019.
While turning left onto McGill Road Tucker’s truck struck Phua, who was walking in the same direction — north — from the Landmark development, where she lived.
Lights from an oncoming vehicle were said to have been in Tucker’s eyes as he made the turn into the intersection, striking Phua and running her over.
McNamee told KTW when Tucker initially struck Phua, he believed his vehicle was having a mechanical issue and continued driving forward. He soon realized what happened and stayed at the scene to render assistance and co-operated with police.
Police at the scene noticed Tucker’s eyes were watery and smelled alcohol on his breath, but when he was given a breathalyzer test, he blew in the warn range, which is under the legal limit 0.08 blood-alcohol level, but likely above the 0.05 warning limit.
Tucker was given another breathalyzer test at the downtown Kamloops RCMP detachment, which again registered below the legal limit. There wasn’t evidence to support a criminal charge of impaired driving and Tucker was charged under the Motor Vehicle Act.
McNamee said Tucker is very remorseful for what happened and apologized in court to Phua’s family in Singapore and her spouse, Gar Childs, who was in court for the verdict.
“The whole thing was a very emotional sentencing,” McNamee said. “It’s a very tragic case on all fronts because nobody wants to be the one who gets hit with the car or whose family member gets hit with the car, but nobody wants to be the one who accidentally does that, either.”
McNamee said Tucker was guilty of negligence for not checking the intersection and was punished on that basis. The exceptions to the driving restriction, he said, are to ensure Tucker’s family isn’t impacted by a punishment intended for him. No alcohol-related restrictions were given in the probation order.
McNamee noted the severity of the decision, as Tucker received the maximum fine for the offence.
In 2017, a bus driver was fined $1,000 and handed a nine-month suspension of his licence for driving without due care and attention when he caused an accident on the Coquihalla Highway near Merritt in 2015, injuring nearly 40 people.
Phua’s death sparked an online petition seeking safety upgrades on McGill Road. City officials last fall unveiled a strategy for improvements along the corridor that could lead to lowered speed limits and lighting upgrades.