Accused pleads guilty in Vernon roof surfing accident that killed friend - InfoNews

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Accused pleads guilty in Vernon roof surfing accident that killed friend

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January 14, 2019 - 1:03 PM

VERNON - A man involved in a tragic "roof surfing" car accident nearly three years ago will learn his fate at a sentencing hearing later this week.

Byron Walterhouse, 42, appeared in Vernon court today, Jan. 14, to plead guilty to criminal negligence causing death, dangerous driving causing death, and failure to stop at accident causing death. In the summer of 2016, Walterhouse was involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of Justin Martyn, 27. Walterhouse and Martyn's friends and family were in the courtroom for the hearing.

The Crown laid out the agreed-upon facts of the case. On Jun. 1, 2016, Walterhouse and Martyn (who were described as best friends) were socializing with friends. Walterhouse drove the group around Vernon while the passengers drank and listened to music. They wound their way around the north end of Okanagan Lake and turned onto Tronson Road. At around 12:30 a.m., Martyn climbed onto the car's roof and clung to it while Walterhouse continued to drive.

According to the Crown, Tronson Road comes to an abrupt end near Garmisch Road, which Walterhouse did not know. When he saw the dead end, Walterhouse slammed the brakes, but they locked up. The car hit the curb and launched into the air, crushing and killing Martyn when it crashed back to the ground.

The Crown noted that witnesses at the crash said Walterhouse fled the scene distraught, claiming that he was going to kill himself.

Walterhouse's lawyer Jonathan Avis stated that Walterhouse's driving, aside from allowing his friend on the roof, was unremarkable. He noted the poor visibility of the road and Walterhouse's unfamiliarity with the area. He also pointed out the presence of Martyn's family members, stating that they don't want Walterhouse to serve a lengthy prison sentence. Avis noted the strong friendship between Walterhouse and Martyn, stating that his client deeply regrets the accident.

"He's described as an honest, loving friend," Avis said. "I don't think he could feel much more remorse."

The Crown noted the tragic nature of the incident and pointed to Walterhouse's guilty plea as a mitigating factor. Crown asked for two-to-three years imprisonment followed by a three-year driving prohibition.

Avis stated the Crown's sentence recommendation would "compound the tragedy." He suggested a much lighter sentence of 60 to 90 days in prison to be served on weekends, followed by two years probation with community service.

Walterhouse spoke briefly at his hearing, apologizing for his actions.

"I take fully responsibility," he said.

Judge Richard Hewson said he needed time to consider all factors in the case before he passed judgment.

"Your case is a difficult one," he said to Walterhouse.

Judge Hewson set the sentencing hearing for Jan. 17 in Vernon.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Sean Mott or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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