Ottawa driver who ploughed into five cyclists and drove off found guilty on all charges
Motorist claimed he'd fallen asleep at wheel, prosecution said he'd been drinking at all-night party.
A driver in Canada who ploughed into a group of five cyclists and drove off has been found guilty by a court in Ontario on ten counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and leaving the scene of an accident.
The motorist, Sommit Luangpakham, has been bailed until sentencing on 6 January and has had to surrender his passport. He has also been banned from driving in the intervening period, reports the Ottawa Citizen.
The case dates back to July 2009 when five cyclists, riding in single file in a cycle lane in Kanata, Ottawa, were struck by Luangpakham’s van, which had moved into the cycle lane. The incident took place at 7.30am.
All five cyclists were injured, four of them seriously, and only one, Cath Anderson, could remember the incident. She was the only one of the five victims who gave evidence at Luangpakham’s trial.
"I'm very confident in the jury's decision today that they took the evidence and they made the right decision based on what was presented," she said after the verdicts had been returned.
"I'm thoroughly relieved that it's over. It was a very long and stressful time for all of us."
The 47-year-old motorist had claimed that he had fallen asleep at the wheel and came round due to the wind buffeting his face after the windscreen had been smashed during the incident.
He said he believed he had struck a post and failed to stop because he was unaware that people had been injured in the incident.
That was a claim that was roundly rejected by prosecutor Matthew Humphreys, who claimed that the acccused’s behaviour in driving away resulted from his having been out drinking at an all-night party.
"Bodies were bouncing off of, into, and over Mr. Luangpakham's van," said the assistant Crown attorney on Tuesday, quoted in the Montreal Gazette.
"Bicycles were being dragged underneath it,” he continued. “He was surrounded by signs of what was happening as he drove down that road."
Luangpakham admitted on Monday that he had been at an all-night party, but denied he had been drinking. He turned himself into police after seeing a lunchtime news report of the incident.
Defence lawyer Richard Addelman insisted that his client had not been drinking, despite a police officer saying he detected stale alcohol on his breath when he turned himself in later on the day of the incident. A bottle cap was also found in his pocket.
Instead, said Mr Addleman, the incident had been caused by a momentary lapse in attention.
Procedural rules, including the fact that more than three hours had elapsed, meant that officers were unable to administer a breath test.
Thanks to road.cc user Kimberly Kabatoff for making us aware of this story.