Family of Fort McMurray pedestrians killed in collision disappointed after criminal charges stayed

Emotions range from puzzlement to disgust for family members of two pedestrians killed in a collision in September in Fort McMurray less than a week after the charges were stayed.

‘I feel what is happening now is just disgusting,’ daughter of one of the victims says

The lives of Sana Elache, 52, and Hadi ‘Dani’ Eljamal, 56, were cut short on Sept. 6, 2017, when an SUV hit them on Real Martin Drive. (Supplied)

Emotions ranged from confusion to disgust for family members after criminal charges were stayed against the driver of a vehicle that hit and killed two pedestrians in Fort McMurray in September.

The 48-year-old male driver no longer faces two charges of dangerous driving causing death, and will plead not guilty to one charge of careless driving under the Traffic Safety Act, according to the Crown.

No reason was given for the downgraded charge, but a statement from Alberta Justice said new evidence surfaced that made a conviction less likely.

The lives of Sana Elache, 52, and Hadi 'Dani' Eljamal, 56, were cut short on Sept. 6, 2017, when an SUV hit them on Real Martin Drive in the Wood Buffalo Estates neighbourhood.

Wife and brother killed

Elache was the wife of Anas Eljamal and Dani was his brother.

Anas said Elache was one of Fort McMurray's great champions, leading the region's multicultural association and starting a leadership program that empowered many in the community into key roles, including municipal councillors.

The collision happened in the Fort McMurray subdivision of Wood Buffalo Estates. (David Thurton/CBC)

At the time of her death, Elache was a senior leadership development specialist at Syncrude.

"I was extremely disappointed with this decision to change the charge from dangerous to careless [driving]," Anas said. "All I really want to know is what happened, and I want to make peace with this whole thing."

Unanswered questions

Anas said he holds no grudge against the accused or the Crown, but is still not satisfied with the reasons that were given for discontinuing the criminal charges.

He said the prosecution told him the driver was going 30 km/h when the accident happened.

The prosecutor, he said, wasn't able to say if police have analyzed the driver's phone records.

Dani's daughter, Naya Eljamal, is in her first year of a social work program at Mount Royal University in Calgary. She said the collision took away her aunt and father on the first day of classes.

Naya Eljamal in a photo she took with her dad, Hadi ‘Dani’ Eljamal. (Supplied)

She criticized the decision to stay the criminal charges.

"Honestly, I was really shocked. I didn't think these type of things happen in Canada," Naya said. "I feel what is happening now is just disgusting."

The driver is expected to face one charge of careless driving later this year.

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on Facebook and Twitter, email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca

About the Author

David Thurton

David Thurton is CBC's mobile journalist in Fort McMurray. He's worked for CBC in the Maritimes & in Canada's Arctic. Email: david.thurton@cbc.ca