A North Vancouver man has been jailed for 40 months and banned from driving for seven years following his sentencing in court Friday for drunk driving that led to the death of a popular North Vancouver labour activist, and the traumatic injury of her husband, in a 2021 crash.
Burnaby resident Marcelina Agulay, died soon after the March 2, 2021 crash when Andre Lukat, crossed the centre line in his Audi and struck Agulay’s vehicle head-on.
Agulay’s husband Leonilo, whom she was driving home from work, sustained traumatic injuries. He was hospitalized for an extensive period of time, but died a few months after being released in June of that year.
In November, Lukat, 47, pleaded guilty in North Vancouver provincial court to one count of impaired driving causing death and one count of impaired driving causing bodily harm.
In handing down his sentence Friday afternoon, Judge Robert Hamilton said, “I do not view what happened on March 2, 2021 as an accident or a fatal car collision. What happened on March 2, 2021 was a crime.”
“Nothing I do today will every change the tragedy, pain and suffering felt by everybody here today,” he added.
Crown prosecutor Kevin Masse described from an agreed statement of facts what happened on the day of the crash.
Blood alcohol level twice legal limit
At the time of the crash, Lukat was coming home from a business meeting in Fort Langley where he’d had “in excess” of one bottle of wine, the court heard.
Around 11:07 p.m., his vehicle was captured on a Low Level Road surveillance camera travelling at more than 180 kilometres per hour, just moments before the crash.
As he approached the curve in the road at the foot of St. Davids Avenue, he crossed over the centre line and crashed into the Agulays’ Volkswagen.
The Audi burst into flames and the Volkswagen was rammed up against the barrier, preventing it from falling to the railyard below. Witnesses called 911 and pulled the injured from their vehicles.
In his sentencing, Hamilton described pictures of the accident scene as being ones of “carnage.”
Agulay, 65, suffered blunt force cardiac arrest, the Crown said, and multiple injuries to her lower body. She died in an ambulance on route to Lions Gate Hospital.
Her husband, 66, had traumatic brain injuries and remained in hospital until April 29, 2021. He died at home just over a month later, due to complications from malnutrition and dehydration, the court heard.
A blood sample taken from Lukat while he was in hospital found 147 to 168 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, Masse said – about twice the legal limit.
In putting forward the joint submission for the 40-month jail sentence, Masse said, “There’s no sentence that can be imposed on Mr. Lukat that can undo the terrible tragedy that’s occurred. There’s no sentence that can compensate for the loss.”
Masse said a jail sentence was needed because drunk driving is a crime that’s often committed by otherwise law-abiding people who would likely be deterred by the prospect of a harsh penalty. Unlike crimes where poverty or drug addiction are factors, “Nothing much can be offered to justify driving drunk,” he added.
Masse pointed to the “incredible rate of speed” Lukat was driving prior to the crash as an aggravating factor.
Lukat’s driving record includes three prior 24-hour driving bans for failing roadside screening tests that should have been “an opportunity for him to reflect” on driving after drinking, said Masse. It also included a Motor Vehicle Act conviction for driving without due care and attention and 13 speeding tickets.
Hamilton described Lukat’s driving record as “very concerning,” adding he could accurately be described as a “menace on the roads.”
Driver 'hurt my family in ways you will never fully know,' says victims' son
In court Friday, family and friends described in emotional victim impact statements how the couple’s deaths have torn their lives apart.
The couple’s only son, Leo, described being woken at 3 a.m. when police knocked on the door to tell him his mother had been killed. Ever since that day “most nights I wake up at 3 a.m.,” he said. Lukat’s actions “hurt my family in ways you will never fully know or experience,” he said.
The son described how his children – who the couple used to care for after school – have struggled with anxiety since the deaths, sometimes asking, “When are they coming back?”
The son also described having to arrange a funeral for his mother during the pandemic without his father, who was still in hospital.
“There was never a day he didn’t ask about my mom,” he said, adding his father told him, “He should have gone first. She was the love of his life.”
Months later, “my father died in my arms,” he said. “The only solace is knowing they are together.”
In handing down his sentence, the judge said the son’s words had a profound impact on all who heard them.
Other family and friends described Marcelina as a “doting grandmother”, as well as a community leader with a “gentle spirit” and “strong sense of justice” who had been an advocate for migrant workers and volunteer for the NDP.
She drew tributes from then-Premier John Horgan and other NDP government members who praised her in the legislature following her death.
Leonilo was never the same after his wife’s death and “most probably died from grief” wrote one family friend.
Marcelina’s sister described how “my heart was torn into pieces” by her death.
'I have caused you unimaginable pain'
Lukat’s defence lawyer Michael Mines told the judge his client, an auto mechanic with two young daughters, was depressed over the break-up of his marriage in the time leading up to the crash and had also been experiencing significant side effects from anti-depressant he’d been prescribed.
On the night of the crash, he hadn’t intended to drink at the business meeting, said his lawyer. But “alcohol was ordered. He consumed a glass of wine that led to another that led to another.”
Lukat has no memory of the crash, said his lawyer. “The last thing he remembers is that there was a curb ahead.”
Lukat has expressed profound and “sometimes overwhelming remorse for his actions,” said Mines. “If he could have done that day over again, he wouldn't have drank,” said the lawyer. “He wouldn’t have put the key in the ignition.”
“He will carry the burden of this accident for all of his life.”
Lukat also addressed the court Friday, telling the family and friends of the Agulays, “I know I have caused you all unimaginable pain” and “I am profoundly sorry for your loss.”
“I know they were incredible and good people,” he said. “If it were possible I would gladly trade places. This is the most painful burden I will have to live with for the rest of my life.”
In handing down his sentence, Hamilton said accepted Lukat’s genuine remorse for his actions.