Second driver pleads guilty in Coquitlam crash that killed 3, including 2 children
A second driver has now pleaded guilty in connection with a multi-vehicle fatal collision on the Lougheed Highway in Coquitlam on April 28, 2017.
Hamed Darbarpar stood in court next to his lawyer and answered "guilty" when the judge asked how he wanted to plead.
Darbarpar and another man, Adam Goulding, were both charged with driving without due care and attention under the Motor Vehicle Act.
Goulding pleaded guilty and was sentenced in December 2018 to one day in jail and six months' probation.
Darbarpar received the same sentence, following a joint submission from Crown and the defence.
The Crown told the court Darbarpar was driving a black Volkswagen Golf northbound on the Lougheed Highway and made a lane change to the left in front of Goulding, who was driving a red Honda Accord with his girlfriend in the passenger seat.
Goulding, Crown said, changed lanes so the two vehicles were side by side, and then Darbarpar’s passenger noticed Goulding’s vehicle drifting towards them.
The prosecutor told the court Darbarpar crossed briefly into the oncoming lane and then corrected, hitting Goulding’s vehicle.
He said Goulding’s vehicle lost control and then went into oncoming traffic, where nine year-old Ella Hernandez and her three year-old cousin Tyler were in the backseat of a Nissan, being driven by her grandparents. The Nissan was hit, and both children were killed.
Goulding’s passenger, a 30-year-old woman, also died.
Ella’s mother Michelle Hernandez read a victim impact statement to the court, her voice breaking as she recalled the night she learned about the crash and was asked to go to the hospital.
"Call it mother’s intuition, but I knew in the pit of my stomach that something was terribly wrong," Hernandez said.
She said Ella’s death ripped her heart into pieces, and scarred her soul. Weeping could be heard in the courtroom as she described her anguish.
She told the court Ella was a compassionate child, who would pack water bottles and snacks for homeless people when they went out.
"She brought light to her world," Hernandez said.
She told the court losing her youngest daughter caused her to fall into a deep depression, and led her to contemplate suicide.
Hernandez said she sought help from doctors, but continues to feel lost and empty.
Of her family, Hernandez said: "We are all trying to support each other, but are so broken."
Ella’s father Gary Hernandez also read a victim impact statement, crying as he said how his heart aches to hear her laugh and see her smile.
"I know I will be longing this way until I see her again in heaven," he said.
He described how she kissed him goodbye the last time he saw her.
"The world became less bright that night," he told the court.
Tyler’s father also spoke, and directed some of his statements directly to Darbarpar.
He said at the end of the day, Darbarpar’s parents will get to hug him, whereas he and his family will never get the chance to hug Ella and Tyler again.
Darbarpar’s lawyer, Kevin Westell, said his client came to Canada from Iran when he was 13 and has no criminal record. He said Darbarpar works two jobs, and knows his actions in this case represent a “moral failure”, and a momentary lapse in judgement that there was no excuse for.
"He did so out of anger directed at another driver," Westell said. "He is immensely regretful for what happened."
In sentencing, the judge addressed the relatives of the young victims, and said those who spoke had painted a remarkable portrait of the two little girls. She called their stories “heartbreaking”, and added courts can only do so much.
"One of the things the courts cannot do is make it better," the judge said, and asked the family not to let the irresponsible actions of two strangers "destroy this large, extended family that these two little girls loved so much."
Darbarpar did not address the court before being put in handcuffs, something both the judge and Ella’s mother expressed disappointment over.
Hernandez did not want to speak on camera, but talked to reporters outside the courtroom. She said it was “really unfortunate” that Darbarpar did not say anything, and added it would have helped with the family’s healing.