Criminal charges against driver withdrawn in Moncton crash that killed 3 people

·2 min read
Saumil Prashantkumar Shah leaves the Moncton courthouse following a pre-trial appearance on Feb. 25, 2022. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Saumil Prashantkumar Shah leaves the Moncton courthouse following a pre-trial appearance on Feb. 25, 2022. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

Six criminal charges have been withdrawn against a Saint John man behind the wheel during a 2019 crash that killed three passengers.

Saumil Prashantkumar Shah has pleaded guilty to a single charge under the Motor Vehicle Act instead.

He was set to stand trial in the Court of Queen's Bench over three weeks on six charges, three of dangerous driving causing death and three of causing death by criminal negligence. Jury selection was set to start Saturday, with the trial beginning Monday.

However, last week, Shah appeared in Moncton provincial court, where Crown prosecutor Pierette Allain laid a new charge, driving without due care and attention, under the Motor Vehicle Act. Shah pleaded guilty to the charge.

Judge Luc Labonte accepted a joint recommendation for a $3,000 fine plus a $450 surcharge. Shah was also sentenced to two years probation and will not be allowed to drive a motor vehicle in New Brunswick during that time. He has six months to pay the fine.

However, the original six charges still needed to be dealt with in the Court of Queen's Bench. Shah appeared Tuesday with his lawyer Nathan Gorham.

Justice Robert Dysart said he was aware of the developments in the case. Allain confirmed the six charges were to be withdrawn.

Gorham said the change in plea shortly before trial followed a decision by Dysart related to an expert report.

Gorham said the trial would have heard conflicting expert testimony about the speed Shah was driving at the time of the crash. The lawyer said testimony would have put the speed at 120 kilometres an hour, or as high as 185 km/h.

His lawyer also told Dysart that Shah gave a statement to RCMP, which if true, would mean he was not guilty of the charges he faced.

Gorham also indicated there was some evidence the vehicle he was driving had acceleration and handling issues.

Wade Perry/Twitter
Wade Perry/Twitter

The charges stem from a crash on the Trans-Canada Highway in Moncton near the Shediac Road exit around 5:45 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2019. Shah was driving a Subaru Outback heading east that rolled and landed in the median.

All five passengers in the vehicle were Indian citizens with four studying at the New Brunswick Community College.

Shah, a permanent resident, was described at the time as working at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John.

The RCMP said two men, both 24 years old, and a third, 29, were ejected from rear seats and died as a result of the crash. A 25-year-old male passenger in the front seat survived.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting