BREAKING: Kamloops man sentenced to 10 months for hit and run that killed teenage girl | Kamloops News | iNFOnews

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BREAKING: Kamloops man sentenced to 10 months for hit and run that killed teenage girl

Jennifer Gatey was 16 years old when she was struck and killed by a vehicle a short distance away from her Aberdeen home on Nov. 4, 2016.
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May 28, 2018 - 11:31 AM

KAMLOOPS - The father of a 16-year-old Kamloops girl who was struck and killed in a hit and run more than 18 months ago says justice has not been served today, after the man responsible for striking her and fleeing the scene was given a 10-month prison sentence.

More than 20 people sat in Kamloops Supreme Court today anxiously waiting to learn the fate of Jason Gourlay, a Kamloops man who admitted to leaving the scene after striking and killing Gatey with his vehicle.

No sentence could make up for the immense loss felt by Jennifer Gatey's family and friends, Supreme Court Justice Heather MacNaughton told the court while delivering her decision today, May 28.

MacNaughton sentenced Gourlay to 10 months in prison. He's been given credit of roughly five months for the time he spent in pre-trial custody.

Gourlay's family sat on one side of the courtroom, while Gatey's family, friends and three police officers on the other side. 

"I am acutely aware of the devastating impact that the tragic death of Jennifer has had on her family and friends," MacNaughton said.

Gourlay was driving his Jeep to his mother's house the evening of Nov. 4, 2016 after taking her dog for a walk. At the same time, Gatey was sitting on the sidewalk under a streetlight on Pacific Way, waiting for a bus to take her to Thompson Rivers University to meet her boyfriend.

The dog in Gourlay's Jeep became distracting, and Gourlay turned for a moment to deal with it. While doing so, he began veering to the right of the road, according to an agreed statement of facts read into court.

That's when the Jeep's front passenger side collided with Gatey's head, killing her instantly. Although Gourlay acknowledges now that he should have stopped at the scene, he continued on until he got to his mother's house. A quick scan of his vehicle showed no obvious damage.

While driving to his Dufferin home, Gourlay saw emergency vehicles heading toward Aberdeen, but he said it wasn't until the next afternoon he realized he was the one who hit Gatey.

Later that evening, Gourlay took his Jeep through the car wash and also switched out his damaged passenger side signal light with his driver's side signal light. Earlier this year he pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and leaving the scene of an accident.

Months after the accident, Gourlay was arrested.

After Gourlay pleaded guilty, Gatey's father Cameron delivered a victim impact statement to the court, which MacNaughton called "heart-wrenching." He detailed the emotional trauma Gatey's death has had on her family and friends, along with the added hurt of ongoing court proceedings.

Following the sentence, Cameron told reporters outside the courtroom that the "slap on the wrist" sentence sent the message that if you hit someone with your vehicle and flee the scene, you won't face harsh repercussions.

"Any reasonable person would look at a sentence like this and think justice has not been served," Cameron said, adding that he doesn't know what someone would have to do to get the maximum sentence which is life in prison.

Although it's not the outcome they were hoping for, the Gatey family wants to remember Jennifer for how she lived, not how she died. Cameron said the end of legal proceedings does provide some closure to the family.

"I never have to come to court again to see (Gourlay's) face," he said. 

Along with the sentence of 10 months, Gourlay has been given a one-year driving prohibition.

Crown prosecutor Neil Flanagan had asked for a sentence of 11 to 14 months in prison, while defence asked for five months.

For more coverage on this case, go here.

— This story was updated at 12:26 p.m. with additional information. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ashley Legassic or call 250-319-7494 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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