Calgary

Parents who lost both children disappointed as judge finds driver who suffered seizure not guilty

A Calgary judge has acquitted a man who killed two siblings after he suffered an epileptic seizure while driving and crashed into their vehicle in August 2017.

James Farkas was acquitted on 2 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)

A Calgary judge has acquitted a man who killed two siblings after he suffered an epileptic seizure while driving and crashed into their vehicle in August 2017. 

The parents of Rashmi, 24, and Ritvik Bale, 20, said they were disappointed and felt hopeless after James Farkas, 44,  was found not guilty by a provincial court judge Wednesday on two counts of criminal negligence causing death.

"In my view, the evidence shows that Mr. Farkas had taken reasonable steps to minimize the risk to the public posed by his illness," said Judge Mark Tyndale before telling Farkas he was "free to go."

Outside the courtroom, Rajni and Ravi Bales struggled to contain their grief.

"We are really disappointed," said the siblings' father. "We're feeling a little bit hopeless now."

When asked to describe his children, Bale teared up and said it was too difficult for him to speak about them. 

Farkas's lawyer said the judge's decision was ultimately the right one. He said his client was feeling "solemn" today.

"He's just trying to move forward in his life; by no means was he ecstatic and happy," said Curtis Mennie. "This was still a very tragic event that unfortunately ended in the deaths of two young adults."

Mennie said his client "can live his life without driving" and has no plans to ever seek a driver's licence again. 

Rajni and Ravi Bale say they were disappointed the driver who caused the crash that killed both their children was acquitted. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

On Aug. 2, 2017, Farkas suffered a seizure while driving his pickup truck and sped through the intersection at 46th Street S.E., near 130th Avenue dragging a construction barricade under his vehicle. After the truck hit the curb on the centre island it continued to speed ahead slamming broadside into the siblings' sedan, which was exiting a Superstore parking lot.​

A data event recorder in the truck showed the accelerator was floored until the collision and there was no steering input from the driver.

Ritvik was killed instantly in the crash and his sister died in hospital shortly after arriving.

Before he began delivering his decision Wednesday, Judge Tyndale first addressed the Bale family. 

"I have five children and a grandson. I know you have gone through unimaginable loss," he said.

"No matter what happens, I cannot heal your pain … nothing I do can bring back your Rashmi or Ritvik."

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

During the trial, prosecutor Andrew Barg alleged Farkas was not properly managing his epilepsy, lied about when he'd last suffered a seizure and should not have held a driver's licence. 

But Tyndale found that according to the "clear and unchallenged" evidence from Farkas and his doctor, he had been seizure-free for four years. That's well beyond the two-year recommendation set by Calgary's Epilepsy Clinic and far more than the six months required by provincial regulations to acquire a driver's licence.​

Tyndale also found Farkas was taking his medications faithfully and was also avoiding triggers like alcohol and lack of sleep.

The Bale family says they want to work with the provincial government to make it more difficult for drivers who suffer from seizures to get a licence to drive. 

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

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