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Man found guilty in drunk driving deaths

Joshua Alan Locke will be sentenced at a later date
The Muskwa River in Fort Nelson. Two teenagers were killed in a drunk driving accident after partying here with friends in 2010.

A man has been found guilty in a 2010 drunk driving crash in Fort Nelson that killed two teenage girls.

Joshua Alan Rai Locke was convicted Dec. 4 in B.C. Supreme Court in a Dawson Creek courtroom. He was 23 at the time of the crash.

Courtney Siegmund and Chelsea Cook, both in Grade 9 at the time, were killed in what the judge described as a "most tragic accident." Terri-Lynn McAuley, who was the same age, bears "lasting mental and physical scars" from the accident. Brandon McKinnon, who was also in the vehicle, survived without serious injury and was the only person in the vehicle wearing a seatbelt. 

Locke was found guilty on seven counts, including criminal negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, drunk driving, and possession of cocaine. He was acquitted on a charge of breaking probation. Justice Elizabeth Arnold-Bailey entered three conditional judicial stays on another three counts of impaired operation of a motor vehicle.

On June 9, 2010, Locke, McAuley and Siegmund, the accused's cousin, were hanging out on the banks of the Muskwa River. Locke eventually drove back to Fort Nelson to pick up McKinnon, where they bought a bottle of whisky and some beer. Cook was eventually dropped off at the river, and some members of the group smoked marijuana and drank for a time, according to court documents.

The group drove back into Fort Nelson, with five people squeezed into Locke's Nissan sports car, with a plan to have a bonfire at Siegmund's house.

Locke turned onto the Old Alaska Highway just before 8 p.m. He accelerated past the posted speed limit of 70 km/h, and lost control around two kilometres from Highway 97. According to McAuley's testimony, the passengers made "frantic" pleas for Locke to slow down in the moments leading up to the crash.

The vehicle slid sideways off the road, flipping several times before coming to rest in a ditch. Siegmund, Cook, Locke and McAuley were all thrown from the car, with Siegmund pronounced dead at the scene. Cook later died of her injuries. The accident left Locke in a coma for around three months. The bottle of whisky was found in the debris at the crash site. 

The Crown called 13 witnesses at trial, including motorists who witnessed the crash, as well as investigating RCMP officers.

The court noted there were rumours around Fort Nelson that McKinnon had grabbed the steering wheel just before the accident — rumours which Justice Elizabeth Arnold-Bailey ultimately rejected.

"This accident was a horrendous event in Mr. Locke's life," Arnold-Bailey wrote in her decision. "He continues to be haunted by it."

Locke will be sentenced at a later date.

[CORRECTION: The article has been updated to reflect that Locke was was convicted on seven of 11 counts. Three counts were entered as judicial stays, while another count was acquitted. We apologize for the error.]

[Clarification: Joshua Locke was born in Surrey, according to court documents. The documents add that Locke drove his car from Vancouver to Fort Nelson, and arrived "five or six days before the accident."]