Sydney man sentenced to jail time for collision that killed woman

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SYDNEY — A 37-year-old Sydney man was sentenced Tuesday to three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to two impaired driving-related offences.

Leo Stewart O’Donnell of Lorne Street will also be prohibited from driving for three years after his release from prison. He pleaded guilty to charges of impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm. Other charges were withdrawn.

The charges stem from a fatal two-vehicle car accident on Grand Lake Road, near the Kytes Hill turnoff, on Dec. 2, 2010. The accident killed 30-year-old April Claire Bramwell, a nurse, and injured her niece, Nikayla Bramwell.

“He did not set out to kill someone but when he got behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol, he put everyone’s life in danger on the Glace Bay highway that night,” provincial court Judge Peter Ross said in accepting the joint recommendation for sentencing.

Crown prosecutor Rick Hartlen told the court that the vehicle driven by O’Donnell was heading toward Glace Bay when it crossed the centre line on the four-lane highway and crashed into Bramwell’s vehicle, which was heading into Sydney.

He said there was no evidence either vehicle was speeding and there was no evidence to suggest either driver had time to brake prior to the crash.

Weather conditions on the night of accident were described as very dark, foggy with a light rain falling. A passenger in O’Donnell’s vehicle was also injured. O’Donnell was heading to drop off a friend in Glace Bay in a vehicle borrowed from a neighbour because he couldn’t find his own car keys. Hartlen said O’Donnell admitted to consuming eight beer prior to driving.

“It was stupid and selfish decision he made to drive,” said the prosecutor.

Defence lawyer Darlene MacRury said driving impaired is completely out of character for her client whom friends and others described as not being a drinker and were shocked to learn of the incident.

“The past 2 1/2 years have been a living hell for him,” said MacRury, adding O’Donnell doesn’t remember much of the accident but does have painful images in his head.

In making his own comment to the court, O’Donnell stood crying in the courtroom Tuesday and apologized to Bramwell’s family.

“I have to live with this for the rest of my life. I am so sorry,” said O’Donnell, a father of three.

The court also heard from four people who read victim impact statements: Nikayla Bramwell, the victim’s niece; Brian Marchand, the victim’s fiancé; and the victim’s parents, Anna and Bill Bramwell.

“There is not one day that goes by that I don’t think of April,” said her niece, adding she still can’t forget the image of seeing her aunt slumped over the steering wheel with her face buried in the air bag.

“She was the first woman I ever fell in love with,” said Marchand, adding he would give anything to be with her again.

Bill Bramwell, whose statement was read by Hartlen, said he still cries over the loss of his baby girl and that he misses her requests to help fix things around the house.

Anna Bramwell said her family continues to be emotionally shattered by the accident and the hardest thing she ever did in her life was bury her youngest child.

Geographic location: Sydney, Glace Bay, Lorne Street Grand Lake Road Kytes Hill

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