The woman charged in the Vancouver Island crash that left then 11-year-old Leila Bui with severe injuries was found guilty Monday morning.
Bui and her family were present in the courtroom. The now 13-year-old girl was in a wheelchair covered by a purple blanket. She barely opened her eyes.
On Dec. 20, 2017, Bui was walking to school when she was struck by the driver of a late model Mercedes SUV while in a Saanich crosswalk on Ash Road at Torquay Drive. She was thrown several metres from the crosswalk.
Bui was kept in an induced coma for several weeks after the crash and has since remained in a non-responsive state, requiring constant care.
Tenessa Nikirk has been convicted in one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Bui’s family said they are pleased the court process is coming to an end but the guilty verdict doesn’t change the irrevocable damage done to their daughter and family.
“We’re just happy that it’s over,” said Leila’s mother Kierry Nguyen. “I urge drivers when they’re out there, pay attention, be careful, don’t be on your phone.
“Please don’t let this happen to another child or anybody else, ” she added, breaking into tears. “It’s devastating for the family. Very devastating. And I would never wish it on anyone.”
Bui’s father, Tuan, said Leila would be happy to know she had made a difference.
“If anything good can come out of this, maybe her case will set the bar,” he said. “It will hopefully determine what is harmful driving, what is excessive speeding…Leila would be happy to know she helped change behaviour to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Throughout the trial, the court heard how Nikirk had been speeding, driving erratically and sending and receiving multiple text messages before she hit Bui. The officer who searched her car after the crash found no apparatus that would have hooked up Nikirk’s cellphone to her car for hands-free use.
In his decision Provincial Court Judge Mayland McKimm points to witnesses, dash cam footage and Nikirk’s texting records.
“When the accused approached the intersection and the crosswalk, the evidence establishes that she did not slow down,” he wrote. “The accused was speeding, not paying adequate attention to clearly visible markers at the crosswalk, the child and the stopped vehicles and was engaged in conversations with other parties by way of handheld device.”
McKimm acknowledged that it’s impossible to determine the precise time of the crash and whether Nikirk was texting at the moment of impact – but he wrote that her behaviour indicated “she was engaging in distracting behaviour for some time prior to the moment of impact.”
“She was indeed distracted at the time of the accident,” he wrote. “At minimum, her thoughts were elsewhere.”
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