Truck driver found guilty of criminal negligence causing death in 2016 crash that killed 4 people

·3 min read
A devastating crash on Highway 400 killed three generations of women from one family, from left: Valbona Vokshi, 35, Isabela Kuci, 5, and Xhemile Vokshi, 55. Also killed was Maria Lipska, right, who was just 27 at the time of the crash.  (GoFundMe/Facebook - image credit)
A devastating crash on Highway 400 killed three generations of women from one family, from left: Valbona Vokshi, 35, Isabela Kuci, 5, and Xhemile Vokshi, 55. Also killed was Maria Lipska, right, who was just 27 at the time of the crash. (GoFundMe/Facebook - image credit)

A truck driver has been found guilty of criminal negligence causing death in the fiery crash that killed four people — including three generations of women from one family — on Highway 400 in June of 2016.

On Friday, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled Sarbjit Singh Matharu, 40, of Winnipeg, knowingly put the public at risk after having had only two hours of sleep while on a 28-hour trip to deliver meat to a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Ontario.

Justice Michael Code said Matharu was also on a cellphone while travelling southbound on Highway 400 near Sheppard Avenue when his truck rammed into traffic, triggering an 11-car pile up and inferno.

"He should have been at his most alert and vigilant when driving his large transport truck in these circumstances and yet he was obviously not," Code told the virtual hearing.

Code ruled the truck driver falsified his driving logs from Winnipeg to Toronto to indicate he had had enough sleep because he was under pressure to make his delivery.

Evidence from witnesses and a reconstructionist during the judge-alone trial shows that when the pileup occurred, Matharu was accelerating when he should have been slowing down for traffic stopped on Highway 400 near Sheppard Avenue.

His tractor trailer then rear ended a Hyundai driven by 27-year-old Maria Lipska — one of the four people killed.

Lipska's car was then pushed into Blerta Vokshi's BMW.

Her car flipped over after hitting her sister Valbona Vokshi's Honda, which ended up smashing into the rear end of another tractor trailer.

Eleven vehicles were involved in the June 24, 2016 pileup, including three transport trucks.
Eleven vehicles were involved in the June 24, 2016 pileup, including three transport trucks. (Barry Smith/CBC)

The 35-year-old died inside the car, along with her five-year-old daughter Isabela Kuci, and her 55-year-old mother Xhemile Vokshi. The family was on their way home from a day at Canada's Wonderland at the time of the crash.

'Sadness and painful memories'

In a statement released after the ruling, Blerta Vokshi says the justice brings closure, but also "more sadness and painful memories."

"We came to Canada from Albania in search of a brighter future. In the blink of an eye we were faced with the reality that we would be burying three of our own ... I replay that day over and over," the statement provided by the family's lawyers reads

"Kuci, Valbona and Xhemile were our everything. We hope some peace returns to our family in time."

Diamond and Diamond lawyers are representing the family in a wrongful death lawsuit, which remains to be settled.

11 witnesses contradicted Matharu's testimony

Matharu told police a brown car had cut him off and he didn't recall hitting any of the vehicles involved in the crash before careening across six lanes of traffic and landing in a ditch.

Justice Code said Matharu's evidence contradicted the testimony of 11 civilian witnesses.

"This escalating collision was directly caused by Mr. Matharu's manner of driving and it was the immediate cause of the four deaths and the bodily harm alleged in the five counts in the indictment," Code said.

Matharu took part in the virtual hearing from his home in Winnipeg and will remain on bail until he returns to Toronto for a sentencing hearing in June.