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HindustanTimes Sat,29 Nov 2014

Driver found guilty of crashing car into great grandfather waiting for the bus, taking his life

Vancouver.desi, Hindustan Times  Vancouver, December 03, 2012
First Published: 18:00 IST(3/12/2012) | Last Updated: 18:03 IST(3/12/2012)

A 28-year-old Surrey man was found guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of an 83-year-old great-grandfather in Surrey three years ago.

Surrey Provincial court Judge James Jardine on Friday said Gurjit Singh Dhillon's "intentional risk taking"caused the black Corvette he was driving to spin out of control at the busy intersection of 128th Street and 72nd Avenue in Surrey, and smash into a bus stop, killing Pritam Singh Benning.

Dhillon had been facing a street racing charge which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, but it was dropped in late August because of inconsistencies in witness testimony. The lesser charge that Dhillon was found guilty of carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison, however case law suggests a sentence ranging from about two to five years will be considered in this case.

Jardine said on Sept. 17, 2009 during rush hour, Dhillon had been driving his brother's Corvette on 128th Street. He was following a yellow Corvette at high speeds, when the two came to a stop at the intersection, with Dhillon ahead. There were many pedestrians around and lots of traffic, Jardine said, and it was a sunny day with dry road conditions. At the green light Dhillon was in the left-hand lane, second in line, and he rapidly accelerated around the Honda Accord in front of him as he attempted to switch lanes in an apparent attempt to get clear of traffic, Jardine said.

Within seconds he started to spin, and the black Corvette clipped the Honda Accord and started to spin across the road, flying over a curb and smashing into the bus stop bench where Benning was sitting.

Benning was thrown into the air and his legs were crushed. He was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital, where he died five days later.

"I hit a person … something happened to my car … it just went out of control," Dhillon said in a 911 call.

The defence suggested that a brake failure caused the fatal crash, and argued that police's investigation into the crash was full of holes.

Jardine said the investigation wasn't perfect, but there was plenty of evidence to prove Dhillon's risk taking and carelessness caused the crash, not a mechanical failure.

"It's a busy suburban intersection … this is a muscle car. This was a Corvette, it was flashy, it was loud, it was very quick," Jardine said. "I find he drove his brother's Corvette in that intersection in a dangerous manner without regard for the risk it posed."

In court there were sighs of relief from the victim's supporters at the verdict. Outside court Benning's son Manjit told The Province he hopes the ruling sends a message to drivers in the Lower Mainland.

"My dad is gone, and we can't bring him back, but we wanted consequences in this case," Manjit said. "(Dhillon) took a human life, for what? For showing off? It doesn't make sense. If anyone should have passed away, it should have been him."

Dhillon, dressed in a gray suit with a tattoo visible on his neck, was stoic as the judge told him he was guilty. Dhillon left court with supporters and family, making no comment.

Sentencing is expected on March 27, 2013.

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