Defence attorney: We’re disappointed in the sentence, not clear yet if we will appeal
Truck driver Sukhvinder Rai has been sentenced to a year in jail for crashing his dump truck with its bucket raised into the Burlington Skyway resulting in the bridge being closed for four days on a holiday weekend in 2014.
‘We are all lucky no one was seriously hurt or killed as a result.’ – Judge Fred Campling
The 36-year-old Brampton, Ont., man was sentenced on Monday in provincial court in Hamilton, after being convicted of dangerous driving in the crash.
Rai was also given a three-year driving prohibition and ordered to pay a victim surcharge fee of $200.
The crash on the bridge occurred on July 31, 2014, and caused more than a million dollars in damage to the bridge’s overhead steel trusses and girders. The bridge is a crucial link between the Greater Toronto Area and the Niagara Peninsula, which borders upstate New York. It carries about 80,000 vehicles a day.
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Rai originally faced three additional charges, including mischief endangering life and two charges related to impaired driving. The impaired driving charges were thrown out by Judge Fred Campling after he ruled the Ontario Provincial Police mishandled the breath tests.
During the nearly month-long trial in March, the court heard Rai had been given a breath test by OPP officers. The test showed he had more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream five hours after the crash, but the judge ruled the tests inadmissible as evidence.
Campling said the breath samples were collected more than three hours after the collision, violating Rai’s rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Campling also found Rai not guilty of mischief endangering life. During his ruling, he said there wasn’t enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Rai raised the dump truck box deliberately. The mischief charge required the Crown to prove that Rai willfully raised the box.
Blood tests inadmissible
Campling said although he was unable to factor Rai’s inadmissible blood alcohol tests into his decision, he was still able to look at some evidence related to alcohol. He said his decision took into account the fact that Rai smelled of alcohol several hours after the collision, and that there was an alcoholic beverage beside the driver’s seat in the truck. Rai’s impaired driving conviction in 2008 also had sway in his decision, he said.
“We are all lucky no one was seriously hurt or killed as a result,” Campling said.
During the trial, defence lawyer David Locke suggested Rai might not be completely to blame for driving with the dump box raised. He said the truck Rai was driving had outdated safety equipment, and it was possible the box could have raised on its own without the driver being aware.
Campling said he found Rai completely responsible for what happened.
‘The fact that you were driving that commercial vehicle after drinking to some extent, and without proper attention to the safety equipment that it had, to me is shocking and frightening.’ – Judge Fred Campling
“Safety equipment in motor vehicles changes year after year and it improves,” he said. “But you were the operator of your truck. It was your responsibility to keep your truck safe and to operate it safely with whatever equipment it has, and you grossly failed to do that.”
Campling said a truck driver has a bigger responsibility than drivers of smaller vehicles because trucks can do so much more damage.
“The fact that you were driving that commercial vehicle after drinking to some extent, and without proper attention to the safety equipment that it had, to me is shocking and frightening,” he said.
Disappointed with sentence
Campling said Rai would not be forced to pay compensation to the three victims who were injured in the collision. He said it was not appropriate to call for that kind of restitution through the criminal process, but added it may end up being sorted out at a civil level.
‘This particular truck was highly deficient from a safety standpoint, and the training that was given to Mr. Rai was the same — highly deficient.’ – David Locke, defence lawyer
Outside the courthouse, Locke said Rai was disappointed with the sentence he received.
“He’s the sole breadwinner in his family. He supports his children, so he’s going through a tough time,” he said. Rai has two children.
Regarding Campling’s comments about the safety features on the truck, Locke said “this particular truck was highly deficient from a safety standpoint, and the training that was given to Mr. Rai was the same — highly deficient.”
Locke said Rai is “considering his options and strongly considering an appeal.”
He has 30 days to file an appeal.