A truck driver in a fiery 2011 accident in Canada that killed a Palo Alto family of four was convicted Monday on four counts involving negligence and dangerous driving, according to a report from the Invermere Valley Echo newspaper in Invermere, British Columbia.
Jaswinder Singh Bagri of Vancouver, British Columbia, was driving a Volvo tractor truck with two unloaded trailers when he collided with a Dodge camper van carrying Robert Howard, 48, his wife Ana-Maria Dias, 50 and their daughters Samantha, 11, and Veronica, 9.
Robert Howard's brother John, who along with his wife Cindy attended Bagri's three-and-a-half-day trial in March, said he hopes the ruling will draw attention to what can be done to make roads safer, though it does nothing to mitigate the loss of the family.
"Everybody in the family has had a hard couple of years. That doesn't change," Howard said.
"The focus now is on how to wrest some improvement out of all of this. What became clear to us was that truck designs have gotten a lot smarter in the last 10 years," with respect to features such as anti-lock braking.
British Columbia Provincial Court Judge Grant Sheard found Bagri negligent in speeding around a curve and crossing the center-line of a highway in Kootenay National Park, causing a jack-knife and subsequent fire that killed the Howards.
"It is established that (Bagri's) conduct amounts to a marked departure from the standard of care for safe driving," Sheard said.
Though there were no witnesses to the accident, the judge heard testimony from drivers and passengers who had seen Bagri's truck just prior to the accident and also relied heavily on testimony from an expert witness in forensic mechanical engineering, who conducted simulations of the crash.
Bagri described why he had driven past a brake check shortly before the accident: "I just took a chance that everything was OK," he said, according to the local newspaper.
Sheard ruled that was a relevant admission, though brake failure was not deemed to be a cause of the accident. The judge accepted the prosecutor's assessment that Bagri was speeding and had crossed the center-line of the highway.
Bagri "was largely ignoring the advisory speed sign ... in failing to bring his vehicle down to or below that speed before he entered this series of two curves" just prior to the collision, Sheard said.
Robert Howard, a longtime Palo Alto resident, was vice-president of engineering for an engineering and industrial design firm. His wife, Ana-Maria Dias, trained as an electrical engineer, was an active volunteer at El Carmelo Elementary School and Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School, where Veronica and Samantha were students at the time the July 22, 2011, accident occurred.