A Quebec trucker’s prolonged inattentiveness on Highway 401 in Whitby three years ago triggered a horrific crash that left four people dead and several others injured, a judge has ruled, finding the man guilty of four counts of dangerous driving causing death.
Mohinder Saini’s transport truck plowed into 20 vehicles that were slowed and stopped in a construction zone on Oct. 2, 2015, according to the decision, which also found the driver guilty of nine counts of dangerous driving causing serious bodily injury.
“This is not a case of momentary or ‘mere’ inattention,” Justice Bryan Shaughnessy wrote in the decision issued last week. “This pattern of driving constituted a significant and substantial period of inattentiveness.”
Carl Laws, 67, Jackie Laws, 63, Jesus Duran-Flores, 12, and Cuauhtemoc Duran-Flores, 10, died in what Shaughnessy described as a “catastrophic collision.”
Court heard Saini, who is in his 70s, was driving a full transport truck from Sorel, Que., en route west to Mississauga, Ont., at around 10:30 p.m. when he entered a construction area with lane reductions on the highway in Whitby.
An accident reconstruction expert testified that Saini was cruising around 100 km/h and didn’t hit the brakes until 1.5 seconds before crashing into a small car, which was nearly stopped, moving at just 1.5 km/h.
Saini then took his foot off the brake, veered left into another lane, hit the accelerator, and then only intermittently applied the brakes as he barrelled into numerous other cars, Shaughnessy wrote. Saini then struck another transport truck before coming to a stop, the judge wrote.
Visibility at the time of the crash was good and the roads were dry, court heard. Witnesses also testified about the numerous construction zone warnings in place.
The defence called two expert witnesses – a psychiatrist and a psychologist – who contended Saini had an undiagnosed condition of sleep apnea and chronic renal disease. They concluded Saini “drove without awareness” for several kilometres and had a “micro sleep” just prior to the collision, court heard.
The judge rejected those assertions.
Saini also took the stand in his own defence and was “adamant that he was constantly on the brake before the collision … and he never applied the accelerator after braking,” the judge’s decision recounted. The transport data from the truck, however, indicated otherwise, the judge noted.
The trucker was also adamant that he didn’t fall asleep, Shaughnessy noted.
Saini’s own lawyer asked the judge to ignore his client’s testimony and said the defence accepted the evidence of the police reconstruction expert. The judge rejected Saini’s testimony, saying the trucker was neither credible nor reliable.
“He blamed others for the cause of the collision,” the judge wrote. “Mr. Saini’s version of the events leading up to and during the collision is patently false.”