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Drunk driving rips families apart

Survivor initially blamed dead cousin for crash

A bond was broken forever in a few minutes of drunk-driving madness, while a close tie was torn in two by the lies churned out in its wake.

At 1:35 a.m. on May 6, 2010, Juan Pablo Alvarez lost his cousin and best friend Juan Carlos Quijano-Flores after the Honda Civic they were in crashed and flipped over on the Knight Street Bridge after a boozy night out downtown.

And Alvarez' decision thereafter to slide the blame for the fatal accident onto the shoulders of his deceased relative, scythed apart two formerly inseparable Richmond families - who shared holidays and special occasions - but sat Wednesday on opposite sides of room 107 in Richmond Provincial Court.

It was there that Alvarez, for the first time, said sorry for getting behind the wheel with a bloodalcohol level more than twice the legal limit. He also apologized to the teary-eyed families for allowing his 27-year-old cousin to take the rap.

His words, however, rang hollow and were almost four years too late for Flores' father, Carlos Quijano, who spoke emotionally outside of court about the years of anguish he and his family endured, dealing with the public perception that their son - a loving father and husband, a footballplaying mentor to his nephews and a light in the life of everyone he touched - had died a drunk-driver.

"I don't hate him, and I don't care if he does time or not; I don't care if he does 10 days or 10 years," said Quijano, fighting back the tears.

"He never came and spoke to me in those three years, never to say sorry.

"For our family, justice has been done because my son's name has been cleared. He was an awesome guy and the star in my life."

Alvarez, who pled guilty last October to drunk driving causing death, was due to be sentenced Wednesday, but the case was deferred until next week.

Alvarez initially blamed the crash on his dead cousin and a third person - who wasn't even in the vehicle - claiming he had no memory of the incident.

For a year after the crash, police believed Alvarez was sleeping in the backseat when the car slid over a median and flipped on the bridge.

But blood left at the scene, after both men had crawled from the wreck, led to DNA evidence placing Alvarez in the driver's seat.

Alvarez survived despite suffering extensive injuries. His cousin died in hospital from multiple skull fractures.

"We believed Pablo when he came to our house the next morning, saying he was not the driver," Quijano told the court while reading his victim impact statement.

The court heard how the car was speeding up to 130 km/h that night.

Alvarez' lawyer, Michael Shapray, said "to this day" his client has no recollection of the crash and it was in his confusion after the crash that he blamed Flores and a third man.

The Crown is asking for up to three years in jail, as well as a driving ban. Defence wants a year to 18 months in jail along with a ban.

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