(CMR) Sean-Michael MacDonald (39), the captain of Pepper Jelly, which was involved in a deadly boating accident that killed two persons and left a third person seriously injured in 2019, was sentenced to seven years and one month in prison.
He was sentenced to seven years and one month for two counts of manslaughter and two and a half years for endangering human life; the sentences will run concurrently.
Reports are that sometime between 6 pm and midnight on 11 August 2019, the Pepper Jelly struck another boat which resulted in two occupants of the other vessel being killed while a third person was thrown overboard into the North Sound, where she remained for hours before being rescued.
Following the fatal crash, MacDonald, Pepper Jelly's captain, was arrested and charged with two counts of manslaughter. Last year, he was found guilty of two counts of manslaughter by culpable negligence for the deaths of John Turner (70) and Emmanuel Brown (49), who were on the other vessel. He was also found guilty of endangering the life of Shamilia Wright, who was seriously injured in the crash.
“I'm really sorry,” the defendant apologized to the victims' families as he wiped tears from his eyes after he was sentenced on Wednesday, 18 January.
Justice Cheryll Richards, who presided over the judge-only trial, said the starting point for high culpability is eight years, which increased to nine years due to more than one life being lost. However, the court took into account that MacDonald had no previous convictions. He also suffered physical injuries and psychological harm.
She said the court also accepts that he is deeply sorry and has a medium risk of reoffending. With these mitigating factors, the sentence was reduced to 7 years and seven months for the two counts of manslaughter. With a delay in the case due to COVID-19, the sentence was further reduced by six months to seven years and one month.
The sentence for endangering a life was reduced from three years by six months to 2.5 years.
The judge ordered that MacDonald's mental health be monitored while in custody. He was reportedly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had been self-medicating with alcohol and undergoing counseling.
Justice Richards said the harm and loss caused is irreparable, and lives on both sides have been altered by the incident. However, while the defendant is a man of good character, he must face the reality of his role in what occurred.
During the trial, the court heard that MacDonald showed blatant disregard for lives as he accelerated in an area where he knew other vessels would be. MacDonald reportedly navigated the boat at dangerous and excessive speed when approaching a channel after sunset. The boat was traveling 73 feet per second before the crash.
The prosecution said an aggravating factor was the extended length of time it took for assistance to be rendered to the victims. The defense said there was no evidence that MacDonald deliberately failed to alert authorities as he was also injured.