The truck driver charged in a crash on Highway 400 in 2016 that killed four people, including a five-year-old girl, has been found guilty on four counts of criminal negligence causing death and one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.
A judge ruled Friday that Sarbjit Singh Matharu’s manner of driving his truck was “the immediate cause” of the deadly collision that occurred on the southbound lanes of the highway near Sheppard Avenue just before 10 p.m. on June 24, 2016. Matharu was driving one of the three transport trucks involved in the crash.
Three of the people killed in the incident, including the child, were members of the same family. They were identified as 35-year-old Valbona Vokshi, her five-year-old daughter Isabela Kuci, and the girl’s 55-year-old grandmother Xhemile Vokshi.
The Vokshi family was returning home from a day at Canada’s Wonderland when their car became involved in the crash.
Another vehicle carrying other family members was also involved in the collision, but the occupants all survived.
The fourth victim was identified as 27-year-old Maria Lipska.
The court heard that Matharu was travelling 90 km/h when his truck crashed into a Hyundai, setting in motion the fiery crash.
Matharu was on the final leg of delivery from Winnipeg to Hamilton. Justice Michael Code found that Matharu had been driving for 26 hours with only two hours of sleep, falsified his driving log to complete the delivery on time, and had been distracted by lengthy phone calls with friends.
“A reasonably prudent long-haul trucker would have foreseen the risk of a collision involving death or serious bodily harm in the circumstances of this case,” Code stated. “Mr. Matharu’s ongoing risk-taking behaviour throughout this time period leading up to the collision constituted a marked and substantial departure from the requisite standard of care.”
Witnesses testified that while traffic was slowing down due to ongoing construction on the highway at the time, the truck was travelling at a high rate of speed.
Matharu denied that he was responsible for the crash during his testimony. He said he was cut off by another vehicle and that the traffic behind him caused the collision.
However, witness testimonies and evidence collected at the scene contradicted his account, the judge ruled.
“I am satisfied that Mr. Matharu’s account is neither credible nor reliable and that the eyewitnesses are credible and reliable,” Code said.
Matharu remains out on bail in Winnipeg. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for June.
– with files from CTV News Toronto’s Mike Walker