Crown seeks prison time for driver who slammed into Surrey grandfather waiting for bus (with video)

Published: March 27, 2013

Gurjit Dhillon, photographed here at Surrey Provincial Court in Surrey, B.C., Nov. 30, 2012, has since had Pritam Singh Benning’s name tattooed on his forearm. Arlen Redekop/PNG files

JENNIFER SALTMAN
VANCOUVER DESI

The crash that caused Pritam Singh Benning’s death in 2009 didn’t have to happen.
If Gurjit Dhillon had not chosen to accelerate through the intersection of 128th Street and 72nd Avenue and make a quick lane change, he may not have lost control and slammed into the bench where Benning, an 83-year-old great-grandfather, sat waiting for a bus.
“It was avoidable,” Benning’s eldest son, Amarjit, said in a victim-impact statement read in court Wednesday. “This fact is the hardest thing to come to terms with. I’m not sure I ever will.”
In November Dhillon, 28, was found guilty of dangerous driving causing death in connection with Benning’s death. A sentencing hearing was held Wednesday in B.C. Provincial Court in Surrey.
On Sept. 17, 2009 Dhillon was driving his brother’s black Corvette on 128th Street, following a yellow Corvette at speeds up to 80 km/h, when the two came to a stop at the intersection with 72nd Avenue.
When the light turned green, Dhillon accelerated around a Honda Accord in front of him, switched lanes quickly, lost control, and his Corvette clipped the Honda, jumped the curb and smashed into Benning’s bench.
Benning was thrown into the air and his legs were crushed. He was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital, where he died five days later.
“At 83 years of age he should have spent his last years surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, not lying in ICU with half his body missing,” Amarjit Benning said.
Crown prosecutor Christopher McPherson said there is no explanation for Dhillon’s actions.
“The actions of Mr. Dhillon had a profound effect on many people. This was a senseless and totally avoidable death,” McPherson said.
McPherson asked for a federal prison sentence of 2 1/2 to three years and a 10-year driving prohibition.
Defence lawyer Marvin Stern asked for a suspended sentence, which would include a six- to nine-month period of probation. He asked for a “significant” driving prohibition, but shorter than what was suggested by the Crown.
Stern said Dhillon is extremely remorseful and takes responsibility for causing Benning’s death.
According to psychological reports, Dhillon has suffered from depression and has been unable to work steadily since the crash.
Shortly after the incident, Dhillon got a tattoo on his forearm with Benning’s name, the date of the crash and the phrase, “The day everything changed.”
In court, Dhillon read out a written apology to the Benning family. He said he wanted to approach the family many times since the crash but it was never the right time.
“I want to apologize to the Benning family for their ongoing suffering,” Dhillon said.
Dhillon gave his version of the events of Sept. 17, 2009 and said he has struggled to deal with what happened that day.
“It kills me inside to know that there’s nothing I can do to make things better,” Dhillon said. “Baba Ji’s [Benning’s] death has changed my life. Now I know that anything can happen in a second and it can affect many lives forever.
“This isn’t something that I can just forget about. It’s going to live with me for the rest of my life.”
Judge James Jardine reserved his sentencing decision.

.

jensaltman@theprovince.com
twitter.com/jensaltman

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