Family robbed of father, son, speak of grief at trucker’s sentencing
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/10/2022 (247 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A truck driver responsible for a fatal collision that sparked a provincial commitment to twin a dangerous stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway has been fined $3,000 and suspended from driving for four months.
Abhinav Abhinav, 25, pleaded guilty to one count of careless driving causing death for a July 21, 2019 crash that claimed the lives of Dryden, Ont., residents Mark Lugli, 54, and his 17-year-old son Jacob, just west of the Manitoba-Ontario border.
The father and son were driving from their home to Selkirk where Jacob, a gifted athlete, was to take part in a golf tournament.
On Tuesday, court was told Tuesday Abhinav was driving approximately 104 km/hr, two vehicles behind a car that had stopped suddenly to make a left-hand turn onto a gravel road. He veered into the left-hand oncoming lane of traffic to avoid a rear-end collision. Abhinav collided nearly head-on with the oncoming Lugli vehicle as both vehicles veered onto the left-hand shoulder.
As a professional driver, there is a greater expectation that Abhinav should have been attentive to his surroundings, provincial court Associate Chief Judge Mary-Kate Harvie said Tuesday.
“The accused wasn’t just any driver, he was the driver of a major motor vehicle and that is a significant factor for the court to consider,” Harvie said. “Big rigs take longer to stop… and for that reason it is critical (drivers) be aware of what is happening around them all of the time.”
Had he been aware of the vehicles ahead of him slowing down, Abhinav could have avoided the collision, Harvie said.
“He should have been suspicious and mindful of that and reacted, but he didn’t,” she said.
With no passing lane, Abhinav had limited available options to avoid a collision, argued defence lawyer Marty Minuk.
“There was nothing to indicate there is a left turn coming up and people need to take care,” Minuk said. “Is the accident wholly attributable to him?… He played a part in it, no doubt about it, but he’s not alone.”
“I struggle with loneliness because you took away my brother, who I did everything with. I struggle with being a man because you took away my father who taught me so much.”–Zack Lugli
Drivers are normally expected to drive onto the right-hand shoulder in such situations. A small ditch separates a road barrier on the right-hand side and Provincial Road 302, which runs parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway at that spot in Whiteshell Provincial Park.
“I think under the circumstances, it wasn’t unreasonable to take evasive action to the left… there really isn’t much of a shoulder to the right,” said Crown attorney Inderjit Singh. “That said, he’s a professional driver and he always needs to know how long he needs to stop.”
Family members and a close friend offered poignant victim impact statements in court that spoke to their continuing pain and grief three years after the collision.
Zack Lugli, Mark’s son, said he was fighting forest fires a three-hour drive from Dryden the night before the collision when he called his dad for a pep talk.
“He comforted me, helped reassure me and gave me the confidence to complete my deployment,” he said. “Who knew this would be the last time I talked to my dad.”
Zack said his brother “helped push me to be the best version of myself. I miss everything about him.”
Zack turned to Abhinav to tell him his actions have changed his life forever.
“It will never be the same,” he said. “I struggle with loneliness because you took away my brother, who I did everything with. I struggle with being a man because you took away my father who taught me so much.”
Mark Lugli, a popular principal at St. Joseph’s School in Dryden, was preparing to join his wife, Lynn Konkle, in retirement. Mark and Jacob’s memorial service drew 1,000 mourners to the local arena.
Konkle said she met Mark in university and “knew immediately this was the man I was going to marry.”
“I will never know all the greatness Jacob could have contributed to the world.”–Lynn Konkle
An active, involved and proud father of four, Mark “always had a twinkle in his blue eyes,” Konkle said. “He always knew how to make me feel better when I was down.”
Jacob had just graduated from high school, and had been named athlete of the year, she said.
“He excelled at everything he did. He was the epitome of sportsmanship,” she said. Jacob loved to laugh and was a “deep thinker.”
“I will never know all the greatness Jacob could have contributed to the world,” Konkle said.
Last month, after lobbying from the Lugli family, the province announced it will move ahead with plans to twin the last undivided stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway between Falcon Lake and the Manitoba-Ontario border.
Premier Heather Stefanson said a timeline for the project will be confirmed this fall.
Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.