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Sobbing driver helped from B.C. courtroom, gets 10 days for ‘risky’ fatal pass

Erika Gebhardt overcome after sentencing connected to the death of Alfonso Tejero near Hope
Alfonso Tejero, 56, smiles posing in front of two motorcycles. (Facebook/ Moira Collie)

Erika Gebhardt of Port Coquitlam was handed a 10-day jail sentence, a $2,000-fine and a two-year driving prohibition, on Monday (Jan. 22) in Chilliwack Law Courts for driving without due care and attention in the 2021 crash that killed 56-year-old Alfonso Tejero.

Gebhardt, 28, was sobbing so hard after the jail sentence was delivered by Justice Georgia Docolas, she needed assistance to leave the courtroom.

The bailiff had approached Gebhardt to handcuff her but she appeared be overcome. Gebhardt faltered as she went to stand, collapsing to her knees, before being propelled out of the room on a rolling chair pushed by two sheriffs.

Crown counsel Sandra Di Curzio had been seeking a six-month jail sentence, a $2,000 fine, and a three-to-five year driving prohibition, which were the maximum sentence and fine for the offence under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Defence counsel Ali Yusef had recommended a two-year driving prohibition and a $1,500 fine, but no jail time for Gebhardt.

The judge laid out the facts of the case that started with a three-vehicle crash on the morning of Sept. 25, 2021 on Lougheed Highway, at Chawathil Road, near Hope. Dash-cam footage that captured the moment of the collision was played for the court during the sentencing hearing in December 2023.

The court learned Gebhardt had been travelling eastbound in her Mazda sedan, following several sports cars as part of a car club “cruise” event. At a critical moment, Gebhardt crossed over into the oncoming lane, trying to pass a large recycling truck, into the path of a westbound motorcycle. She did not have adequate time to pass the truck, or pull back in her lane, as two motorcycles approached.

Her Mazda collided with Tejero’s motorcycle. He was ejected and landed in a ditch, with his bike striking his friend Darrin Stuppard’s. Stuppard was also ejected and his motorcycle landed on top of Tejero.

Gebhardt entered a guilty plea during the sentencing hearing in December.

The courtroom had been filled with family and friends of the victim, many of whom read out heart-wrenching statements of personal loss.

On Monday the judge thanked the family for coming out to the hearing and sharing their stories last month.

“Your words painted a picture of someone who was a wonderful, caring, and thoughtful,” father, son, friend and partner, and those statements made it “crystal clear” how the loss of Tejero impacted them.

“I cannot presume to know the measure of your loss,” Justice Docolas said, adding that she hoped with the passage of time the pain would lessen.

Gebhardt’s statement contained an apology to the family and said that she “deeply” regretted her actions and would carry the burden forever.

A statement from her mother said Gebhardt fell into a deep depression after the incident, and even the joyous arrival of her baby daughter could not mute her deep-seated feelings of remorse and sorrow.

Gebhardt had no prior criminal convictions, but there were six incidents on her driving record, including speeding.

Justice Docolas explained the charge of driving without due care and attention under the Motor Vehicle Act was “qualitatively different” than dangerous driving causing death, under the criminal code.

“Gebhardt made the decision to follow the car in front of her,” the judge said in her reasons for sentencing. “That decision she made may have been a momentary decision but it was intentional, and amounts to a blind pass around the recycling truck into oncoming traffic. What Ms. Gebhardt did was risky and unsafe.”

Her actions were “more than momentary inadvertence and inattention,” Justice Docolas said.

The aggravating factors were cited as the tremendous negative impact on the victim, that the offending driving resulted in a “risky and unsafe blind pass” that preceded the collision, as well as two most recent driving offences.

“I accept that she is remorseful and accepting of the consequences,” the judge said, mentioning a mitigating factor.

“I am of the view that a jail sentence is required for Ms. Gebhardt to satisfy the principles of sentencing,” she said, adding the gravity increases because the fateful decision she made to follow the car ahead of her was “intentional.”

There was some discussion during the sentencing hearing arguments about whether or not a conditional sentence was an option available to the court, and the judge said upon review she determined it was not available for an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act.

Gebhardt burst into tears as the sentence was read by the judge. She covered her face with her hands, as the bailiff tried to get to rise, to be taken into custody.

READ MORE: Emotional day of victim impact statements at sentencing hearing

READ MORE: Witnesses sought after fatal crash in 2021

Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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