By Steve Hubrecht
A long-standing case in Invermere Provincial Court finally came to a close earlier this week with the sentencing of a Vancouver man convicted of dangerous driving causing death in connection with a fatal accident in Kootenay National Park more than three years ago.
Jaswinder Singh Bagri who was found guilty this past April on four counts of dangerous driving causing death after a four-day trial in March was sentenced in Invermere court on Monday, November 3rd to three years in jail and a five-year driving prohibition to begin immediately upon his release from prison.
Its within the range of acceptable sentences, said Crown prosecutor Lynal Doerksen, adding he hopes the conclusion of the legal case brings at least some measure of closure to the family of the victims.
The case stemmed from a July 22nd, 2011 collision involving Mr. Bagris semi that took the lives of Robert Howard, his wife Ana-Maria Dias, and their two children Veronica, 9, and Samantha, 11, who were vacationing in B.C. from Palo Alto, California.
Mr. Bagris semi truck jack-knifed into the path of the familys northbound Dodge camper van that was towing a Suzuki SUV, pinning them against a guardrail and trapping them inside the vehicle as fire broke out. All four died in the fire, but Mr. Bagri was uninjured.
The collision occurred on a segment of Highway 93 running downhill from the pass near Olive Lake (13 kilometres east from Radium Hot Springs).
Family members of the Howards say it is a relief to have the legal case over, but that larger questions about driver safety, which the case highlights, still merit consideration.
The bigger question about how to keep the roads safe is still there how truck drivers are prepared and licensed to ensure they are as safe as they can get to help prevent future accidents, said Robert Howards sister-in-law Cindy Howard, pointing out that in Canada six people die each day on the road.
Thats the equivalent to an airplane crash each month. And if we had an airplane crash each month, people would certainly be examining whats going on and trying to fix that issue, she said.
The family had thought perhaps a stiffer penalty might be appropriate, added Mrs. Howard.
Since our concern has always been how to make the roads safer, we had been hoping for a longer (driving prohibition), given that Mr. Bagri doesnt seem to have grasped the consequences of what he did, she said.
Mrs. Howard said that for herself, her husband John and the more than 25 other family members related to the victims, the end of the case is another step in the long process of closure.
Our families will never be the same, but it is a relief to have this part of the process over, she said.
Mrs. Howard thanked Mr. Doerksen for his dogged persistence in the case, saying that without it the collision and circumstances that led to it could have easily been mistaken for an unavoidable accident.