Surrey man who drove car into Royal Columbian Hospital given 2-year sentence

Published: March 14, 2014

The pickup that crashed through the front doors of Royal Columbian Hospital.Submitted photo/Twitter/ @arsonrider

JENNIFER SALTMAN
VANCOUVER DESI

When Ranjit Singh Sandhu purposely drove his truck into the entrance of Royal Columbian Hospital in September 2012, it was the act of a deeply disturbed man, according to his lawyer.

“What this was, I submit, was a cry for help from … a man who was suffering from depression and long-standing alcohol abuse,” Nicholas Preovolos said during a sentencing hearing Friday in B.C. provincial court in New Westminster.

Sandhu, 29, was convicted last month of impaired driving, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and mischief endangering life.

Judge Daniel Steinberg sentenced Sandhu on Friday to two years in prison.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 9, 2012 Sandhu went to the emergency department at Royal Columbian upset and mildly rude and perhaps, according to a witness, under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He had a brief interaction with the clerk and then left.

Sandhu returned 15 minutes later and was referred to triage, where he was quiet and apologetic to the nurse. He left the hospital again without telling anyone why he was there.

Half an hour later, Sandhu drove his pickup through the hospital parking lot at a high rate of speed and straight into the entrance. He went through two sets of doors and didn’t stop until he crashed into a wall in the emergency department.

Sandhu was initially unresponsive and was removed from the truck. It was later found that he was extremely intoxicated — his blood-alcohol level was about 2 1/2 times the legal limit.

Miraculously, only one staff member suffered minor injuries from flying glass.

Steinberg found that although alcohol and depression or a lack of impulse control led to the incident, Sandhu did not have a momentary lapse in judgment.

“This was in no way accidental,” Steinberg said. “A hospital is a place where sick, disabled people go for help. A hospital is a busy place. The accused would have known that.”

Steinberg said the sentence he imposed had to indicate to the public that the court considered Sandhu’s offence extremely serious.

The two-year sentence includes a two-year driving prohibition that will commence when Sandhu is released from prison, a $1,250 fine and he has been ordered to pay for the more than $63,000 in damage he caused to the hospital.

Sandhu’s sentence will run concurrent to a three-year term he is already serving.

In March 2013 Sandhu was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to unauthorized possession of a firearm and pointing a firearm. Five other weapons-related charges were stayed.

The charges related to an incident at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel on Oct. 15, 2012, when Sandhu, who was on bail for the hospital incident, went to the hotel armed with a 9-mm handgun. There was a tense, hours-long standoff that ended with Sandhu’s surrender.

According to Preovolos, it was attempted suicide by cop and Sandhu was lucky he wasn’t killed.

Before Sandhu left the courtroom, Steinberg advised him to take control of his life.

“Hiding behind the bottle conceals and enhances your problems,” he said.

jensaltman@theprovince.com
twitter.com/jensaltman

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