A Fort St. John man will spend 90 days in jail over the next three years for fleeing the scene of a fatal hit-and-run that killed two pedestrians in 2019.
Anthony Norman Burke pleaded guilty and was sentenced Monday for failing to stop after an accident causing death, a case described to the court as “tragic” and “unavoidable.”
According to facts agreed to by Crown and defense lawyers, Burke turned his pickup truck west off 100 Street onto 98 Avenue in the early evening of Sept. 18, 2019. As he accelerated down the road, he “immediately collided” with Samantha Hunter and Jared Tompkins, who had been crossing the street from a hotel parking lot.
Both were killed on impact, and Crown prosecutor Joseph Temple said Burke had not seen them in the middle of the road because he was “blinded” by the glare of the sun, which was setting at the time.
“It’s not the first time I’ve seen a case where somebody turned off our northbound-southbound streets onto a westbound avenue at sunset and was blinded, literally just blinded, by the sun, and then hit somebody in a crosswalk or hit somebody who was crossing the street,” Temple said.
However, Temple noted Burke was also “well aware” of the accident and that it may have caused death.
The incident was captured on dash cam video from a vehicle parked near the scene. A witness also told police he saw Burke exit his vehicle and had spoken with him briefly before Burke said, “I’m out of here,” and got back in his truck and drove away.
Burke surrendered himself to police several hours later after RCMP put out a news release searching for witnesses and calling on the suspect to turn themselves in.
Defense lawyer Jay Michi said the circumstances of the collision were “tragic” and determined to be “unavoidable” by accident reconstruction experts.
“Two people are dead and there’s no escaping that,” Michi said, adding Burke was “ashamed” and received counselling to deal with post-traumatic stress.
“He’s prepared to take responsibility for his imprudent and unfortunate and craven decision not to remain at the scene that day,” Michi said. “The decision to drive away and not render assistance is something that Mr. Burke has a lot of remorse about.”
Judge Tamera Golinsky accepted Temple and Michi’s joint recommendation for an intermittent sentence, a 90-day jail term the maximum allowed under law.
Golinsky said Burke has no criminal record or driving violations, and that “he expressed remorse and is receiving counselling.”
However, Burke “should have known better” and “should have acted responsibly,” Golinsky said.
Burke’s sentence will be spread out over the term of a three-year probation order, and served at Prince George Regional Correctional Centre in December 2022, April 2024, and September and October 2025.
He was also fined a $200 victim surcharge and given an automatic one-year driving prohibition, though there may be further restrictions imposed by ICBC.
Temple said the purpose of an intermittent sentence is for the accused to be “significantly reminded” of their criminal offence.
“It is a repeated denunciation on the part of society,” he said.
Given a chance to address the court, Burke, 31, apologized to Hunter’s family, saying he took responsibility for his actions and was prepared to accept the consequences.
“I know leaving the scene was the wrong thing to do and I’m ashamed of that,” he said. "Nothing I can say will undo the effects of the damage done, I am very sorry though, very sorry."
Samantha Hunter was 31 and had celebrated her birthday just 10 days before she was hit and killed.
Speaking on behalf of his family, Sky Hunter said his sister left behind two boys, ages two and 10 at the time, the oldest of which he and his wife have now adopted.
Hunter said the youngest boy now lives with his sister, and that the family grieves Samantha's death every day. She was described as a good mother who “loved her boys to the max.”
“It’s affected her son, which I call our son now, to a point where he keeps a lot of stuff bottled in... He’s asking a lot of questions now being 14 years old, and we definitely don’t have all the answers,” Hunter said.
“I realize it was an accident... I realize this also could have happened to a lot of people, even this gentleman here,” he said, referring to Burke. “But a lot of people might have stayed at the scene as well too, so, it’s very unfortunate.”
“We’re glad that this is finally coming to an end and we have a little bit of closure,” he said.
No victim impact statement was submitted or presented to the court on behalf of Tompkins, who was 26.