Fatal crash conviction stands as trucker’s appeal dismissed in 21-vehicle Whitby collision

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Published June 26, 2023 at 4:31 pm

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A trucker’s appeal of his conviction for dangerous driving causing death has been dismissed years after he caused a 21-vehicle pile-up in Whitby that killed four people and injured nine others.

The trucker, Mohinder Saini, then 73 of Quebec, was driving along Hwy. 401 around 10 p.m. on Oct. 15, 2015, when he arrived at a construction site between Salem Rd. and Brock Rd. The stretch of highway has three lanes but was reduced to two due to the construction. The lane restrictions had ground traffic to a halt as the lanes merged. The construction site was well-marked with 10 separate signs.

Saini was travelling up the centre lane about 1.6 kilometres into the construction zone when his transport truck rear-ended a Ford Fiesta sedan. Collision reconstructionists later found Saini was travelling up to 102 km/h when he struck the Fiesta, which was going only 1.5 km/h.

The impact sent the Fiesta into a Kia Sedona minivan and GMC Canyon pickup truck. After the initial impact, Saini’s truck continued to plow through other vehicles. According to expert testimony, Saini tapped the brake shortly before striking the Fiesta but let off the brake pedal soon after. He then held the gas through traffic and later tapped the brake pedal several times.

Saini hit several passenger cars before he rammed another transport truck. The impact with the second transport “compressed” two SUVs, a Chevy Equinox and a Hyundai Tucson. Had Saini slammed the brakes he could have stopped the truck within 63 metres, court heard.

The crash killed Pickering couple Carl Laws, 67, and Jacqueline Laws, 63 as well as Jesus Duran-Flores, 12, and Cuauhtemoc Duran-Flores, 10. Jesus was killed on scene while Cuauhtemoc succumbed to his injuries in hospital a few days later. The boys were from Mexico and were in Canada to visit family. Eleven others were injured, some severely.

In 2018, Saini was convicted of four counts of dangerous driving causing death and nine counts of dangerous driving causing harm. Justice Bryan Shaughnessy sentenced him to a six-year sentence and a ten-year driving ban.

Saini told the court he did nothing wrong and attempted to blame the other truck driver he rear-ended. He also attempted to explain his lapse in attention as a “microsleep” brought on by undiagnosed sleep apnea. He also said he was unaware he was going through a construction area and held the brake the entire duration of the crash. Both of these assertions were refuted by witnesses to the crash, his internal truck data, and in expert testimony.

However, Shaughnessy said, “I do not find the accused to be a credible and reliable witness” and his behaviour marked a departure from the reasonable expectation of care.

Saini “failed to see and/or foresee the risk of slowing or stopped traffic” and “failed to see the stopped or slowing traffic,” Shaughnessy wrote in his decision. This and other factors in the crash led Shaugnessy to find Saini’s driving went “beyond negligence or carelessness” and constituted a “prolonged inattention” from his responsibility as a driver.

Saini filed an appeal of his conviction saying Shaughnessy applied uneven scrutiny to his testimony. A 2023 Court of Appeal decision tossed out the appeal on this merit. The found Shaughnessy was right not to consider Saini’s tesitmony and “the collision never occurred in the manner described by” Saini.

Saini also appealed his sentance as too harsh, but this and his assertion his Charter rights were violated was also rejected by the three-judge appeals panel.

 

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