'I could tell the car wasn’t stopping': Witnesses testify about Saanich crash that left girl with severe brain damage
Warning: This article contains graphic details
VICTORIA – A woman charged in a 2017 crash that left a young girl with life-altering injuries is scheduled to appear in court today.
Tenessa Nikirk faces one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm in the Dec. 20, 2017 crash in a crosswalk at Ash Road and Torquay Drive.
Leila Bui, who was 11 at the time, was on her way to school when she was struck by an SUV allegedly driven by Nikirk.
Bui sustained serious brain damage in the crash and suffers from continued complications from her injuries.She was put into a medically induced coma during her six-month recovery in hospital.
According to a separate notice of civil claim filed in June 2018, Bui's family says Nikirk was negligent in the crash by failing to keep a proper lookout, failing to keep the vehicle under control, driving at an unlawful rate of speed, and failing to hit the brakes or take evasive action in the moments before Bui was struck.
In an admission of facts, the court heard Monday that Nikirk sent 11 text messages and received 13 text messages between 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. on the day of the crash. Bui was hit between 8:16 a.m. and 8:17 a.m.
The civil suit also claimed that the District of Saanich contributed to the collision by permitting a "public nuisance" in the form of trees and other foliage that obstructed the view of motorists and pedestrians at the Ash and Torquay intersection.
Since the crash, changes have been made to the area including improved lighting and the installation of a pedestrian-activated crosswalk.
The notice of civil claim detailed Bui's injuries, including a "catastrophic" brain injury, a ruptured spleen, fractured vertebrae, neck injuries and rib fractures, among others.
Nikirk is expected to appear in a Victoria courtroom at 9:30 a.m. Monday. The trial is scheduled to last eight days.
'I could tell the car wasn’t stopping': witnesses recount horrific crash
In court, Julia Fellman said she was on her morning drive to Hillcrest Elementary when a driver in a black Mercedes SUV passed her on a solid yellow line along Ash Road.
“If I was to guess, I am sure they were going over 80 [kilometres per hour],” said Fellman.
She said the vehicle appeared to accelerate and pull away from her after passing. The posted speed limit on Ash Road is 50 km/h.
Dash-camera footage from Fellman’s vehicle was shown in court and shows a black vehicle passing in the oncoming traffic lane.
Another witness testified that a person driving in a black coloured SUV was tailgating her before the crash.
“It was close that I couldn’t see the front of the car in my rearview,” she said.
Another witness, Steven Kachanoski, testified in court on Monday that he saw Bui near the centre of the crosswalk as a vehicle was approaching.
“I think I yelled for her to get out of the way,” said Kachanoski.
“I could tell the car wasn’t stopping," said Kachanoski. "She didn’t brace herself. I don’t think she saw the car coming."
He watched as the young girl was struck and started coming towards his vehicle.
“I remember her sliding on her back towards our car,” he said. “She did hit the front fender of my car.”
Fellman said that as she drove over a hill on Ash Road she saw the same black Mercedes SUV that passed her stopped near Torquay Drive.
“I saw what looked like the top of a head of a small person or child beside the second car,” she said.
Bui’s parents were in court Monday and could be seen hugging each other for the entire time in the back row.