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House arrest for trucker convicted in crash that killed young girl

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When it was clear ex-trucker Evan Beedawia would be going home to his family, his emotional wife stepped forward in the courtroom and hugged him tight.

A prison sentence had been possible for the 32-year-old Tecumseh man convicted of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm in a crash that killed a Glencoe kindergartener and seriously injured her mother four years ago.

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Instead, Superior Court Justice Alissa Mitchell decided Beedawia’s good character and his level of moral blameworthiness in the collision that killed Mariia Bundur, 4, made him eligible for two years less a day of house arrest, followed by three years of probation.

He is also prohibited from driving for seven years.

The sentencing showed how complicated and varied sentencing ranges can be in driving cases, particularly after 2018 amendments to the laws calling for longer sentences.

“The problem in crafting an appropriate sentencing in a case like this is that the court is faced with, on the one hand, the untimely death of a young child,” Mitchell said.  “The experience of losing a child in these circumstances is beyond the imaginable.

“On the other hand, the court must impose a sentence on a relatively youthful, extremely remorseful offender, having low moral blameworthiness, with a young family . . . dependent on his emotional and financial support, . . . who comes before the court for the first, and what I anticipate to be the last, time.”

Beedawia was convicted after a trial last fall for the Nov. 18, 2019, crash at Glendon Drive and Melbourne Road.

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The Bundur family was returning home on Glendon Drive, with father Vitalii driving, from Mariia’s dance lesson at London’s Ukrainian Centre. Beedawia was on Melbourne Road driving a transport truck loaded with auto parts.

Beedawia, who’d put in a 14-hour day, was upset he had to take another load to Windsor. Conditions were foggy and he’d become distracted. Failing to notice the rumble strips and stop sign, he blew through it at 90 km/h, the posted limit, striking the Bundur car.

Mariia, who was sleeping in her front-facing car seat, died of head and neck injuries. Her mother Oksana, who was in the front passenger seat, suffered a spinal fracture, kidney laceration, bruised liver and broken fingers.

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Beedawia, then 27, had a clean driving record. There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol, no street racing, no intentional falsifying of logbooks or exceeding work driving hours, and no evidence he failed to comply with any safety regulations.

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The Iraqi refugee had been on a path to Canadian citizenship before the fatal crash. He came to Canada in 2011, is married and has two small children. He has a consistent work record and is employed as a delivery driver for an auto parts company.

Mitchell pointed to 16 letters of support given to the court.

“A consistent thread . . . is that Mr. Beedawia is an honest, hard-working, caring, compassionate individual, a loving and devoted husband and father and someone committed to helping others,” she said.

He was “extremely remorseful and has experienced overwhelming feelings of guilt and suffered extreme emotional distress following the offences,” Mitchell said.

Dangerous driving causing death carries a maximum sentence of life, while dangerous driving causing bodily harm carries a maximum 14-year prison term. Conviction of any crime with a maximum penalty of at least 10 years makes Beedawia subject to a deportation order – and that made guilty pleas improbable

“Simply stated, he had no choice but to proceed to a trial given the seriousness of the charges and their impact on his immigration status,” Mitchell said.

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This week, another truck driver, Christopher Hamilton, was sentenced to four years for dangerous driving after his overloaded hydro-vacuum truck tipped over on a car, killing the driver. But Hamilton had ignored safety procedures and claimed his brakes failed; Beedawia was found criminally liable after becoming distracted at the intersection.

“These failures were not conscious decisions,” Mitchell said. “Rather, his offending conduct was comprised by various acts of omission or negligence. With his enhanced duties as a commercial truck operator, this conduct attracted criminal liability.”

She noted the powerful victim impact statement made at the previous sentencing hearing by Mariia’s father and spoke to the parents directly, telling them that “there is nothing the court can do to redress that wrong done.”

Mariia was their only child at the time and they had spoken about their deep, emotional loss that they still carry with them.

“I promise that if there was, I would do it,” Mitchell said. “However, I believe that I am in the best position to assist Mr. Beedawia to continue in society as a capable, contributing member of this community.”

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Mitchell rejected the Crown’s call for a four- to six-year prison sentence and opted for the lengthy house arrest term suggested by defence lawyer Kenneth Marley.

“It may be difficult for the Bundur family and others to understand the approach that I have taken today to sentencing Mr. Beedawia for these offences,” Mitchell said.

“Mr. Beedawia didn’t intend to hurt anyone. Rather, he was distracted, which led him to take unacceptable risk, resulting in tragic consequences for the Bundur family. For this conduct, he has been found criminally responsible.”

Vitalli Bundur had only asked her to be “fair” and consider what they had to say when she sentenced Beedawia, Mitchell noted.

“It is my hope that at the conclusion of this process, Mariia’s family will believe their voices have been heard and that justice has been done,” she said

jsims@postmedia.com

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