The drunk driver who killed talented, deeply-loved ice hockey player Lachlan Seary has been jailed for up to about five years, a sentence his victim’s family has labelled “strongly inadequate”.
Peter James Loeschnauer, 29, was sentenced in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday (25 February). He will have to serve two years and 11 months behind bars as a non-parole period before he is eligible to be released.
Tearing up at times, Acting Justice Verity McWilliam appeared extremely touched by comments Lachlan’s family made during the sentencing hearing in early February, saying it was a “humbling experience” that gave her an insight into the “sheer hell” they faced.
“It is clear that their grief is such that they can barely breathe,” she said of his parents, Janice and Garry Seary.
Acting Justice McWilliam said Garry had told the court he was a “broken man”, while she said Janice was a “crumbling mess inside” but had put her own grief on hold to support her husband and family.
The impact of Lachlan’s loss on such a dynamic family “cannot be overstated”, she said, and it was her hope the community continued to “wrap its arms” around all of them and “keeps them afloat for all the years to come”.
She also added that remorse was written on Loeschnauer’s face when he heard the family speak, which also appeared evident on Friday as he could be seen crying at times.
Loeschnauer had started drinking in Woden on the afternoon of 7 March 2021, having seven drinks before going home to Gilmore, then driving to meet friends in Civic, where he had 10 to 12 drinks.
He started to drive home at about 1 am on 8 March, a journey of about 20 km. He was speeding on the Monaro Highway at 150 km/h when he collided with Lachlan’s car, causing the 19-year-old’s car to leave the road and hit a tree.
Lachlan suffered fatal head injuries. Acting Justice McWilliam said his death must have been almost immediate.
An Uber driver and their passenger were the first to come upon the crash scene and the passenger got out and asked Loeschnauer if he was okay. He told the passenger he had “hit a kangaroo”.
As they were pushing Loeschnauer’s car off the highway, the passenger saw Seary’s car and ran to check on him but was unable to rouse him.
Police found Loeschnauer had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.185 and MDMA in his system.
Acting Justice McWilliam said when he first heard Lachlan had died, he cried out repeatedly, “What have I done?”
There was no question, she said, he “felt the full weight of his actions”. However, she also said the collision came from a “chain of conscious decisions”, including deciding to drive after drinking. She also said his decision to speed was irresponsible and reckless, resulting in high culpability.
After the sentencing, Janice and Garry spoke to media outside the courts, where Garry said, “the nature of the sentence is strongly inadequate”.
“This person has behaved in a very reckless manner and taken the life of a young man in his prime,” he said.
“I am forever grateful that I had the opportunity to be this young person’s [Lachlan’s] parent.”
Janice said Lachlan had been one week away from turning 20, had gotten himself an apprenticeship and was making decisions about how he would live his life.
“He was so happy. He had a great friendship group, work was good, relationships were good, our family was whole and happy,” she said.
“We’ve heard so many stories about Lachlan from his friends since he’s died, and we could not be prouder parents because he was designated driver that night, and that’s just typical of what he was doing, looking after his friends.”
Janice said it had been really hard to move forward, and she had been “stuck thinking about his death”.
“I really want to think about how he was in life and not dwell on how he died or the person that killed him,” she said.
“I don’t want to dwell on it anymore and hopefully today’s the end of that because he was such a beautiful kid.”
They thanked Crown Prosecutor Patrick Dixon for his hard work and the Australian Federal Police who handled Lachlan’s case with “the utmost sensitivity and compassion for our family”.
Loeschnauer, a landscaper, pleaded guilty to culpable driving causing death as well as drink and drug driving.
In addition to his jail sentence, he was disqualified from driving for three years and fined $800. With time served, he is eligible to be released from jail in December 2024.