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The tragic, senseless death of 21-year-old Silas O’Brien four years ago has left open wounds that will not close for his family, friends and then-girlfriend.
Inside New Westminster Supreme Court room 101, the grief was palpable as victim impact statements were read out during the sentencing hearing of Brent Parent, the driver convicted of running O’Brien over and driving away on March 13, 2008.
“Whoever said it gets easier with time has not suffered this loss,” said Roger O’Brien, Silas’ father, who sobbed as he read out loud his victim impact statement. “To suggest we should be grateful for his 21 years does little to alleviate the pain.”
Roger said he finds himself escaping often in photos of Silas.
“I shed tears often on my pillow at night.”
He said he will not rob Silas’ memory with feelings of anger or bitterness.
“I don’t seek revenge but I do ask for justice,” said Roger.
Silas’ best friend Sam Dooley, who was driving that fateful night when his truck was run off the road, said he now struggles with depression and overwhelming sadness.
“Silas was supposed to be my best man,” said Dooley in his victim impact statement. Dooley married in 2010. “There are days I can’t carry on a conversation with my wife.”
O’Brien and Dooley grew up together, doing everything together and talking through all of life’s details, he said.
Luke Steven, who was also on his way to the airport with O’Brien and Dooley that fateful night, said he now gets headaches and is anxious.
“My throat feels like it’s going to close up. . . I’d puke and my body aches. I can’t express myself.
“I’m bitter. My relationships have suffered.”
He wrote that having to testify in court caused him extreme anxiety and sleeplessness.
The three young men lived together, were best friends and were planning to go on their first vacation together to Hawaii, when they drove along 16 Avenue. After the deadly hit and run that killed O’Brien, neither could bear to return to the basement suite they shared. Both men found other places to live. Both said they asked to get their plane tickets refunded but the airline refused.
O’Brien’s girlfriend Megan Williamson wrote that she can never marry her Silas. The two had talked about marriage and she had planned to have children with him one day and was excited to bring them up in the O’Brien family.
“It’s impossible to express the grief I have. Silas was incurably optimistic,” said Williamson. In her letter, she questions if O’Brien’s optimism would have helped her recover faster from a brain aneurysm she suffered 29 days after he died.
“I was in a coma, and then had surgery and then I was in a coma again and then rehab. I always wonder if Silas would have helped speed my recovery.”
The two had known each other for some time and were part of a tight-knit youth group at the Cloverdale Bibleway Church.
She said she finds it nauseating that she is left to “wander the earth without him.”
O’Brien was the youngest of six siblings in a close family. A good-looking guy, with “a handsome smile” said his dad, O’Brien had lots of friends and was very close with his family, being a big part of the family business as well.
“He was a gentle rascal of a teenager,” describes his mom. In her victim impact statement, Michelle O’Brien said it is hard to go on in life.
“My heart aches too much. . . I’m not sure where to go from here,” she wrote in 2011. “It’s my family’s needs that keep my focus now.”
She wrote that she has a lot of anxiety about what happened to her son happening again.
“I could not take that,” she wrote.
Parent will be sentenced on Thursday (May 10). Crown is asking for an eight-year jail term and 15-year driving ban. The defence is asking for three-year jail term and 36-month driving ban, with provisions for Parent to drive at work.