HEBER CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Jamie McKenzie promised not to drive drunk again and wanted to teach others about the perils of impaired driving.
He was hoping for a lenient sentence. Last October, McKenzie killed six people on Highway 40. Authorities said his alcohol level was four times over the legal limit.
But Judge Jennifer Brown said his crime was too horrific to overlook and wanted other drivers to know about the consequences of driving drunk.
“There are consequences,” Judge Brown said.
McKenzie told authorities he was drinking whiskey while he was working. He was driving a dump truck and headed northbound on Highway 40. As he approached the Jordanelle Reservoir the dump truck crossed over into oncoming traffic. The 5,000-pound truck smashed head on to the pickup truck carrying the six men.
Prior to his sentencing, McKenzie apologized to the families who lost their loved ones.
“I am so sorry for the heartache and devastation I caused you because of my alcoholism and my bad choices,” McKenzie said.
One of those killed was the driver Efrian Cardenas. His daughter still showed signs of devastation when she spoke.
“This is so much heartache,” said Viridiana Cardenas said. “I always knew that if my mom or my dad would die, it was going to be difficult but not at this magnitude. Not the way this happened.”
Also killed were five members of one family. The five men were from Honduras and worked with Cardenas as landscapers.
Several members of the Utah Highway Patrol were there to support the victims. One trooper spoke about the devastation he encountered when he arrived.
“We weren’t even sure there were six people there,” said Trooper Jonathan Boyd. “The body parts were too strewn. We had to put them together to get an actual count of how many people were actually killed in this crash.
He said troopers come upon scenes involving fatalities but nothing compared to what they saw that day.
“I think I can speak for the troopers that showed up at the scene and it still affects us every day,” he said.
In asking for leniency, Mckenzie said he would like to speak before people about the dangers of drinking and driving. He was hoping for a lighter sentence and forgiveness.
“I would like to ask for forgiveness not just for myself but for you all because if you cannot forgive me, I understand,” he said.
The judge had no desire to show mercy. As part of the plea bargain, three of the automobile homicide charges were dropped. He was sentenced to three separate one-to-15 years in prisons. Each will run consecutively. It means he could get out in as little as three years or serve the maximum of 45 years in prison.
The prosecutor for Wasatch County vowed to notify the Utah Board of Pardons which oversees inmates that McKenzie serve more than three years.
Outside the courtroom, Mckenzie’s family offered the Cardenas’ apologies as well.
But it still doesn’t erase their tragic loss.
“What he says in there it doesn’t matter,” said Cardenas. “(My father) is not coming back.”