Teen driver in Vaughan crash that killed 2 kids dodges jail time, faces 12 months in open custody
A teen driver who was behind the wheel of a speeding car that fatally struck two young children in front of their Vaughan home has been sentenced to serve a year in an open custody youth facility.
The boy, who was 16 years old at the time of the crash last May, cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. He pleaded guilty in December to two counts of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Justice David Rose handed down the sentence Monday in a judge-alone trial at the Superior Court of Justice in Newmarket. After the year in open custody, the teen will face six months of community supervision, a six-year driving prohibition and one year of probation.
In open custody sentences, a young personal normally spends the first two thirds of their term in a youth facility — with fewer restrictions and conditions than a detention center — and the final one third in the community under supervision.
The sentence falls far short of what Crown prosecutor Sean Doyle had sought. In a sentencing hearing last month, Doyle suggested jail time was required, along with a 10-year driving ban.
The defence, meanwhile, asked for a maximum of two years of probation and a five-year driving prohibition, saying the teen is devastated by the incident and accepts responsibility.
Speaking to reporters following the sentencing, the children’ parents said they don’t know if any punishment “would have been enough.”
“All we know is that this doesn’t change anything for our family,” Binta Patel, the children’s mother said.
Ketan Chaudhari, left, and Binta Patel speak outside a Newmarket courthouse following a sentencing hearing for the teen driver who struck and killed two of their children 11 months ago. (Martin Trainor/CBC)
Instead of searching for justice, Patel says she and her husband hope to “honor” their children by bringing awareness to dangerous driving.
“We have realized that this is important — to share our story in hopes of creating a culture of safer driving and to ultimately save lives.”
Teen reached 102 km/h on residential street
Patel said May 16 started off as a beautiful, warm spring day that was full of “so much joy” for her and her family.
“We were at ease, we felt safe and expecting of the horror that was about to unfold in front of our eyes,” Patel said.
Anaya Chaudhari, 10, and Jax Chaudhari, 4, were playing in their driveway on Athabasca Drive, near Dufferin Street and Teston Road in Vaughan around noon. They were with their 60-year-old neighbor who was helping them fix a bike.
According to an agreed statement of facts, the teen was speeding in a black Mercedes, reaching 102 km/ha half second before the vehicle struck the curb. That’s when the car launched into the air and hit the children and neighbour.
Police said they were called to Athabasca Drive, near Dufferin Street and Teston Road, around noon on May 16, 2021. In their original reports, police said the driver of a black, 2017 Mercedes C Class had gone off the road and hit three people in a residential driveway. (Mark Bochsler/CBC)
The siblings were rushed to hospital with life-threatening injuries along with the neighbor who had minor injuries. Jax died later that day and Anaya died the following day.
The Richmond Hill teen was arrested at the scene. He attended a bail hearing in May and was then out on bail and living under house arrest until his hearing in December, when he plead guilty to his charges.
‘We are burdened with our grieving minds’
Speaking through tears Monday, Ketan Chaudhari, the children’s father, said he replays the events of that day over and over in his mind. He wonders what, if anything, could have changed the outcome of the tragedy.
“We are burdened with our grieving minds that want answers to what went wrong,” Chaudhari said.
“I have to accept we were completely helpless and vulnerable to the recklessness of a stranger.”
The couple both spoke of wading through their endless fear and grief, struggling to be present for their surviving daughter — and one another.
“I never got to say goodbye,” Chaudhari said.
A mourner looks at the damaged earth and skid marks as she leaves flowers at the site where two children were killed in Vaughan, Ontario on May 18, 2021. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)
Like his wife, Chaudhari says he and his family are victims of a “much bigger problem.”
“If a 17-year-old is too immature to understand the consequences of his behaviors and actions, and is then protected under our judicial system, then why do we give the privilege and responsibility to drive a vehicle?” he said.
Chaudhari had a message for all young drivers, urging them to understand that vehicles can be “deadly weapons” that should be operated with care.
“Do you understand how much can go wrong in just a few seconds?” he said.
Case was ‘challenging,’ judge says
In his written sentence, Rose said the case was a “challenging” one.
What is apparent, he said, is that the range of sentences for youths found guilty of Dangerous Driving Causing Death is “quite broad.”
Rose said he easily came to the conclusion that jail time was not needed, adding the teen driver has no prior history that suggests he would fail to comply with orders given to him.
Justice David Rose says this case was ‘challenging.’ (Pam Davies/CBC)
Listening to the victim impact statements during last month’s hearing, the teen driver hung his head and wiped his eyes.
He spoke near the end of the day, saying he is “deeply tortured every day and night by the pain, grief and misery” he caused.
He added that he will continue to hold his guilt for the rest of his life.
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