Wrong-way Christmas Eve driver sentenced to 23.5 years in prison

Christopher Lee Smith speaks with his attorney Charles Shell after being sentenced by Judge Sam Myers (in background), to 23.5 years in prison for a drunk driving crash on Pecos Road on Christmas Eve, 2007 that killed one and seriously injured three.

Christopher Lee Smith was sentenced to 23.5 years in prison Friday for the Christmas Eve 2007 crash when he drove the wrong way on Pecos Road, while drunk and smashed into a van.

“That’s fair,” said Jason Chung, whose parents were seriously injured in the  crash.

“Hopefully he’ll learn from it,” he said.

Police say that Smith killed Trang Vo, 34, and seriously injured Nuong Chung, 49, and his wife Tuyet Nguyen, 51, and Chung’s sister, 36-year-old Kiem Chung, as the four were coming home after a special Vietnamese concert on Christmas Eve, when Smith’s Buick Regal ran head-on into their Dodge Caravan, just east of Desert Foothills Parkway.

Chung and Nguyen own a nail salon in Ahwatukee Foothills, and their injuries continue to prevent them from returning to work full time, they testified.

“After the incident, it changed everything,” the elder Chung told Judge Sam Myer before sentencing. “I just want to let the defendant know what he did has a big impact on the family.”

Smith had been spending time with his parents in the Foothills that night and allegedly was planning to spend the night. But instead, around 11 p.m. he drove onto Pecos Road, first driving to 27th Avenue, then turning around and driving the wrong way on Pecos Road until the crash.

Before being sentenced Smith apologized.

“I just want to say I’m sorry. I never meant to do anything like this,” said Smith to the Chungs and Nguyen who sat in the audience.

For more information, see the Ahwatukee Foothills News April 21 issue or visit www.ahwatukee.com.

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