By John Lauritsen

ORONO, Minn. (WCCO) — The driver in a deadly crash that killed two men, including the Gopher hockey coach’s son, learned his fate on Thursday.

Last month, James Blue pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal vehicular operation while operating a vehicle under the influence as part of a plea deal.

He was sentenced on Thursday to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

Prosecutors said Blue, 52, was drunk and driving nearly 100 miles per hour when he lost control of his car, left the road and hit several trees in Orono last summer.

Video evidence allegedly shows that Blue was trying to impress the young men with the car. Mack Motzko and Sam Schuneman both died in the crash.

Thursday’s sentencing was delayed for nearly an hour because more than 200 people were trying to access the Zoom link of the proceedings, creating technical difficulties.

Judge Regina Chu said she received several victim impact statements on behalf of the families and prosecutor Patrick Lofton described the profound loss, saying “the ways they were going to contribute to society are innumerable.”

On the night of the crash, Blue was ejected from his car and his blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit. His friends and members of Alcoholics Anonymous spoke on his behalf in court on Thursday, describing his behavior as out of character.

“I’ve lived for 52 years,” Blue said in court on Thursday. “I would give up my life today just to say goodbye to my kids, to bring Sam and Matt back. It’s not fair they are 20 and 24 years old and they haven’t lived their lives, and for that I am just so sorry for what I’ve done.”

Blue will serve at least two-thirds of his sentence in prison, and can do the rest of his time on supervised release.

“While today’s outcome cannot compare to the life sentence our two families have been given with the loss of our beloved sons, Mack and Sam, we hope it sends a clear and strong message that there are serious consequences for drunk driving and those that drive while impaired will be held accountable,” Motzko and Schuneman’s families said in a joint statement.

The families asked for privacy as they grieve the loss of their two sons.

John Lauritsen