One word came to mind after a Sarnia judge watched video footage of a minivan, with a woman 3.5 times the limit behind the wheel, hurtling into a south-end car dealership and crashing into multiple parked vehicles.

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One word came to mind to a Sarnia judge after she watched video footage of a minivan hurtling into a south-end car dealership and crashing into multiple parked vehicles.

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“Horrific,” Justice Anne McFadyen said.

The woman behind the wheel that day – Ashley Wismer, 34 – told the judge she was “very” sorry for the March 15, 2020, collision at Auto Max Sarnia, which left three vans for sale “toast,” according to the general manager. According to an agreed statement of facts, Wismer had three and a half times the legal limit of alcohol in her bloodstream at the time of the crash.

“I can’t believe that I did that,” Wismer said to McFadyen. “I can’t change what I’ve done. All I can continue to do is change what I’m working on now, and that’s getting to a better place in life. I’m almost there.”

Wismer pleaded guilty earlier this year to a single count of impaired driving causing bodily harm but sentencing had been delayed multiple times.Wismer’s stepdaughter was riding in the passenger’s seat of the black Chrysler Town and Country and suffered a “suspected” rib fracture.

The case finally concluded this week, with the Crown arguing Wismer should spend from eight to 12 months behind bars. Defence lawyer David Stoesser asked for the “maximum” suspended sentence or a weekends-based jail sentence as her client had moved away from Sarnia and made “remarkable” changes in her life.

“Life has improved for her considerably,” he said to the judge. “I’m asking you to let the good that has begun in this woman’s life continue.”

McFadyen decided “incarceration is appropriate.”

“However, I am satisfied that this is an appropriate case for that incarceration to be served in the community by way of a conditional sentence,” she added.

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Wismer’s one-year conditional sentence features six months of house arrest followed by another half-year of living with a curfew. When that’s over, she’ll have one year of probation. She isn’t allowed to drink alcohol while those orders are in effect.

The court heard Wismer, 32 at the time, was drinking with some friends on Saturday, March 14, 2020. Shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday, she wound up behind the wheel and failed to make the slight bend in the road at Confederation and Ontario streets.

The van went into a nearby parking lot, across a grass boulevard and knocked down a wooden utility pole before barrelling across Confederation Street towards the dealership.

“The utility pole was sheared off and broken into multiple pieces, causing live wires to lay on the roadway,” assistant Crown attorney Sarah Carmody said while reading an agreed statement of facts.

The van smashed into “a number” of parked vehicles, Carmody said.

George Lazarakos, general manager of Auto Max Sarnia, told The Observer three Dodge Grand Caravans for sale – 2012, 2013 and 2017 models – took the brunt of the blow.

“They’re toast,” Lazarakos said at the time.

Three heavily damaged vans sit in the Preferred Towing compound on Monday March 16, 2020, in Sarnia, Ont. (Terry Bridge/Sarnia Observer)
Three heavily damaged vans sit in the Preferred Towing compound on Monday March 16, 2020, in Sarnia, Ont. (Terry Bridge/Sarnia Observer) Photo by Terry Bridge /Terry Bridge/The Observer

Four other vehicles also suffered minor damage, he said. Lazarakos estimated the repair and replacement costs for the vehicles alone – without factoring in other costs such as towing or repairs to the hydro pole – would be about $75,000. That would be covered by insurance, he added.

The video footage played in court showed other vehicles being driven in the area near the time of the collision.

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“It’s just sheer luck that none of them were in the way when Ms. Wismer collided with parked vehicles at the dealership,” Carmody said.

Wismer was arrested and test results showed she had between 260 and 280 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

“Ms. Wismer was 3.5 times the legal limit,” Carmody said.

The judge pointed out that was of “great concern.”

Sarnia police said at the time a passenger – a 24-year-old woman from Sarnia – was taken to hospital with serious injuries after the high-speed crash. The court heard neither woman was “significantly” hurt, but Wismer’s stepdaughter suffered the “suspected” fracture.

She is banned from driving for one year.

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@ObserverTerry

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