Calgary

Driver who killed siblings while suffering seizure 'so, so sorry,' judge hears

The man who killed two Calgary siblings when he drove through an intersection while suffering a seizure said Thursday he will never drive again and offered a tearful apology to his victims' family sitting in the courtroom gallery .

James Farkas is on trial on two counts of criminal negligence causing death

Rashmi Bale, left, and her brother, Ritvik, died on Aug. 2, 2017, after being struck by a driver who was suffering a seizure. (Facebook)

The man who killed two Calgary siblings when he drove through an intersection while suffering a seizure said he will never drive again and offered a tearful apology to his victims' family sitting in the courtroom gallery.

"I don't require empathy, I don't require sympathy, I don't require forgiveness," said James Farkas, who testified in his own defence on Thursday.

"I'm just so, so sorry that this happened."

Farkas, 44, is on trial for two counts of criminal negligence causing death.

Parents in courtroom

On Aug. 2, 2017, Rashmi, 24, and Ritvik Bale, 20, died after Farkas suffered a seizure while driving and blew through an intersection. His pickup truck slammed into the siblings' red sedan exiting the Superstore parking lot on 46th Street S.E., near 130th Avenue S.E.

Their parents have sat through four days of painful testimony about the siblings' final moments.

Farkas told defence lawyer Curtis Mennie that on the day of the accident he felt well-rested. He testified he drove to his bank, where a teller made an error and accidentally closed an important account needed to make mortgage and other bill payments.

Though irritated, Farkas was calm and respectful throughout the 90-minute ordeal, according to the bank employee's testimony. 

'I could see his face'

Farkas then left the BMO, got in his vehicle and made a hands-free call to a friend. In the middle of that phone call, Farkas suffered a seizure while leaving the strip mall. 

"The next memory I have is the officer standing at my window telling me I'm under arrest for murder," said Farkas in a shaky voice.

He said Ritvik was "10 feet in front of me, I could see his face."

Farkas covered his face Thursday and then went on to explain his next spotty memories of being in an ambulance and then in hospital getting X-rays.

Police and firefighters responded to the collision involving a truck and a small sedan in southeast Calgary. (James Young/CBC)

'I don't ever plan to drive again'

Since the crash, Farkas said he's suffered suicidal thoughts and PTSD.

Mennie asked if his client — who has been eligible to drive since January — would apply to have his licence reinstated.

"Obviously this is is a lot worse for other people, but it's been an absolute horrific year," Farkas said.

"I don't ever plan to drive again."

Seizure causes

Years ago, Farkas said, his seizures were caused by heavy drinking the previous night paired with a lack of sleep. So he imposed a three-drink maximum after his last alcohol-related seizure in 2009.  

Farkas said his last seizure was at work on May 5, 2015. He attributed that to missing his morning dose of medication and possibly one from the night before. 

A side-effect of the medication is short-term memory loss, so Farkas said he solved that issue by purchasing a weekly pill organizer and keeping it at his front door with his keys.

Farkas said his licence had been suspended twice because of seizures but was reinstated each time.

Prosecutor suggests Farkas lying

When his licence was reinstated in 2007, Farkas was required to have forms filled out by his doctor that were then brought to a registry in order to renew his licence. 

By 2013, those forms had to be completed every five years.

Prosecutor Andrew Barg asked Farkas a number of questions under cross-examination suggesting the accused had more seizures over the years than he'd disclosed to doctors.

Barg also suggested Farkas lied because he was worried about losing his licence.

Judge Mark Tyndale will hear from another defence witness on Friday.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.