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Drunk driver blamed dead cousin for crash

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Confessed drunk driver Juan Pablo Alvarez seen leaving court on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

Confessed drunk driver Juan Pablo Alvarez seen leaving court on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)

A confessed drunk driver who crashed and killed a passenger — his cousin — blamed the dead relative and a third person who wasn’t in the vehicle because he had no memory of the incident, the B.C. Provincial Court heard Wednesday.

Richmond RCMP Cpl. Stephanie Ashton said Mounties for a year were led to believe that Juan Pablo Alvarez was sleeping in the backseat when the car slid over a median and flipped upside down on Knight Street in 2010. Alvarez has since pleaded guilty to two charges.

Alvarez survived despite suffering extensive injuries. His cousin and “best friend,” Juan Carlos Quijano-Flores, managed to crawl out of the wreck, but died later.

It was a story that tore their family apart, court heard.

“We believed Pablo when he came to our house saying he was not the driver,” said an emotional Carlos Quijano, the deceased’s father.

“I never questioned him, just waiting, maybe he was scared, confused.

“You can’t get angry … he’s part of the family.”

In court, those from the Quijano-Flores part of the family sat on one side of the gallery and rarely looked over at the smaller group of Alvarez’s supporters on the other side.

Defence counsel Michael Shapray said before the crash the pair had been drinking at a bar prior to getting in a car that belonged to Quijano-Flores’ mother.

Crown prosecutor Jeremy Hermanson said the car was speeding up to 130 km/h that night. Alvarez, according to the Crown, had a blood alcohol content of between .184 and .211.

Shapray said “to this day” Alvarez has no recollection of the crash and it was in his confusion after the accident that he gave his contradictory statement — blaming his cousin, a third man named “David” and himself as well.

The Crown is seeking up to three years in jail, in addition to a matching driving ban. Defence is arguing for 12 to 18 months.

Alvarez, a carpenter in Terrace, does not have a criminal record with the exception of one speeding ticket, court heard.

A decision is pending and court resumes on Feb. 18.

(The bar Juan Alvarez and Juan Quijano-Flores did not belong to the Quijano-Flores family as previously reported. The article has been corrected to reflect that change.)

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