Sentencing hearing begins for driver who traumatically injured girl at Saanich crosswalk
VICTORIA -- The sentencing hearing began Monday for a Saanich woman who was convicted of dangerous driving after a crash left a young girl with serious head and life-altering injuries three years ago.
On Jan. 27, Tenessa Nikirk was found guilty of dangerous driving causing harm for a 2017 crash that left 11-year-old Leila Bui with injuries so severe that she will require care for the rest of her life.
The hearing began Monday as Bui’s mother read her victim impact statement to the court. Bui’s mother fought back tears as she told the court how her life and her family’s life has been forever changed after the crash, which occurred at a crosswalk.
“The tears keep on coming, sometimes just a few drops and sometimes streaming down my face,” said Lela’s Bui’s mother, Kairry Nguyen. “I used to be a very happy individual. I say, 'Used to be.' I get mad, angry, sad, just like everyone else, but I can’t get over it quickly and just continue to be (my) happy self.”
Nguyen went on to tell the court that prior to the crash that severely injured her daughter, she loved her life that was well balanced with a job she liked, and a family and friends that she loved dearly.
“I had an amazing family of my own that consisted of a loving husband and my four kids. I could not ask for anything more,” said Ngyuen. “The family as a whole was and continues to be amazing, but not as happy, not really whole anymore.”
As Nguyen read her impact statement to the court she said that without her daughter, Leila, she will never be whole again.
“I miss her everyday, every second and in every breath you take,” said Nguyen. “Family gatherings are less lively and energetic without her.”
Nguyen described how her daughter was an enormous ball of life. She said Leila had an energy that affected everyone around her.
“I miss her warmth and her everything,” said Nguyen.
After pausing to collect her emotions as she fought back tears, Nguyen said, “I am so thankful she is still here with us but my little girl, my little baby is not herself.”
Nguyen said before the crash she was a calm and logical person. She indicated to the court that coping with the aftermath of the crash has challenged her emotionally.
“This horrific incident has tested me to the max,” said Nguyen. “I almost lost my sanity the first couple of weeks at the hospital while she laid there attached to what seemed like hundreds of tubes.”
Nguyen told the court that since Bui has been home, she has required around-the-clock care. She went on to say she lives with the constant worry that she may not reach her daughter in time should one of the many monitors that record Bui’s condition sound an alarm.
The mother says she now also worries about her children when they go out to play or cross the street.
“Now I get a little panicky that I will never see them again,” said Nguyen. “How can I trust the other party because Leila was just crossing the street?”
She says her daughter was careful but was still hit by a vehicle.
“It was driven by a careless individual who was negligent and did not care about the safety of the people in the area,” said Nguyen. “The life of our daughter has forever changed, the life of our family is forever changed.”
Nguyen told the court that Nikirk has never reached out to Bui’s family to apologize for her actions.
“I’m a bit disappointed and angry by that,” said Nguyen. “Our family deserves a heartfelt apology. Leila deserves an apology.”
Nguyen said she hopes that what has happened to her daughter doesn’t happen to another child.
“The pain of this accident has been too painful, too unbearable,” said Nguyen.
Crown prosecutor Jess Patterson is asking the court that Nikirk receive a sentence of two to three years in prison and a five-year driving prohibition.
Nikirk’s defence lawyer Tom Marino is asking for a 90-day sentence that would be served on weekends.
At the time of her trial, Patterson noted that Nikirk engaged in a number of dangerous-driving behaviours, including tailgating, dangerous passing, speeding and texting while driving.
Witnesses also testified that Nikirk was texting while driving and crossing a yellow line into the oncoming lane to pass vehicles before the crash occurred.
A video expert hired by police testified during the trial that Nikirk's SUV was travelling in excess of 100 km/h before the crash and came to a stop about 18 to 20 metres beyond where it struck the girl at Ash Road and Torquay Drive.
"I am left with no doubt that the accused drove both before the accident and at the time of the accident in a manner that was dangerous to other users of the road," Judge Mayland McKimm wrote in his decision.
The sentencing hearing was adjourned Monday afternoon and will continue at a future date which has yet to be decided.