Families slam fine, 1-year suspension for driver in Trans-Canada crash that killed young couple
Gurjant Singh, 24, pleaded guilty to lesser charge of careless driving Wednesday in Portage la Prairie
The families of two young people killed in a 2017 Manitoba highway crash say they don't feel any sense of closure after a guilty plea in a Portage la Prairie courtroom Wednesday morning.
Gurjant Singh, 24, was initially charged with criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death after the truck he was driving ran a red on the Trans-Canada at Highway 16, just west of Portage la Prairie, in August 2017.
Carley Hunking, 19, and Dorian Roulette, 17, were killed instantly.
Singh pleaded guilty Wednesday to a lesser charge — the Highway Traffic Act offence of careless driving causing death — and was given a $3,000 fine and a one-year driving suspension.
Hunking's and Roulette's families were in court and read out victim impact statements detailing the grief and agony of knowing the victims would never raise a family of their own.
"We lost amazing people, young people that were just starting their lives," said Gypsy Hunking, Carley's mother.
Through tears, both Hunking and Wendy Orr, Dorian's stepmother, talked about the toll the deaths have taken on their families.
"We think about [Dorian] all the time. We're the ones that are living with the heartbreak," Orr said outside the courtroom.
"We'll never get to see him be a father, be a husband. We'll never get to see what would've been."
Singh also addressed the court, but when he was overcome with emotion, his lawyer read out an apology on his behalf. Singh's statement said not a day has gone by that he does not relive the crash.
"I really hope he is sorry, but that's not going to change our daughter being gone. It's not going to change anything," Hunking said after the sentencing.
"He is going to move on with his life and maybe having his nightmares … he'll be more self-conscious if he's driving again."
"I don't take sorries, I don't take apologies," said Orr.
"Your actions speak louder than any words spoken. There's nothing he can say or do to make up for what he's done."
The court was told Singh came to Canada from India in 2013 as a student. Now on a work visa, he has been out on bail since 2017. He hasn't been able to work since the accident, because the conditions of his bail prevented him from driving.
"Death, grief, sorrow and nightmares," were not on his mind when he came to Canada for a better life, Singh's statement said.
His lawyer said he'd only been truck driving for about a year when the crash occurred, on Aug. 27, 2017.
The court heard Singh had received a speeding ticket a month before the crash for going 110 km/h in a 90 zone.
At the time of the fatal crash, he was going 83 kilometres per hour in an 80 km/h zone, but failed to notice the flashing warning lights near the intersection indicating the traffic light was about to turn red.
Judge Donald Slough attempted to address what he called "the elephant in the room," referring to the 2018 Humboldt Broncos crash.
The driver of the semi involved in the collision with the hockey team's bus — which left 16 dead — was given an eight-year sentence last month.
Slough said Singh's case is different in that he did not miss several warning signs, as the semi driver in the Humboldt crash did.
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He said Singh's failure to notice the flashing lights was a "moment of inadvertence" and not intentional, which justifies the staying of the criminal charges.
The judge agreed with the Crown that there was nothing that indicated Singh was driving dangerously or intended to run the light.
His truck was loaded with heavy pipes at the time. Slough accepted Singh would not have been able to stop in time for the red light after failing to notice the warning lights.
Slough also acknowledged that no sentence or fine could ease the pain of the families who lost their loved ones.
The families said the sentence doesn't offer them any sense justice or closure.
"We don't get to have our kids back and [Singh's] sitting there worried about having to drive again? No, that's not right," said Hunking.
"He should never be able to drive again. My daughter and Dorian don't ever get to do that," she said.
"They're gone forever and he's sitting there worried whether he's going to have a job or not."