It’s been three-and-a-half years since a two-vehicle crash on Mavis Road in Mississauga, Ont. claimed the life of 66-year-old Rustico “Otie” Gamat and seriously injured his 58-year-old friend Diosdada Pascual.
The driver of the car that struck them, Azar Sheikh, has been found guilty of six counts including impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death.
Madam Justice Jennifer Woollcombe who presided over the two week, judge-alone trial by zoom from the Brampton courthouse told Sheikh, who was 31-years-old at the time of the collision, that his consumption of alcohol and MDMA along with his lack of prudence, foolish risk taking and desire to race, contributed to the crash that killed Gamat, a grandfather to five, and injured Pascual, Gamat’s longtime friend.
It was September 14, 2017 around 1:15 a.m. when Pascual and Gamat were driving home to Mississauga after working the night shift at the Mopar Chrysler plant in Brampton, as they had done together for almost nine years.
The roads were dry and it was a clear warm night. As Pascual was about to turn eastbound from southbound Mavis Road onto Bristol Road, his 2008 Toyota Highlander was struck by a northbound BMW. The Toyota rolled over onto it’s side and the front end of the BMW was smashed in.
Gamat was pronounced dead on scene.
Pascual was taken to hospital with multiple injuries including a broken shoulder, broken rotator cuff, a laceration to his liver and kidney, punctured lungs, five broken vertebrae and three broken ribs.
Sheikh remained at the scene and was arrested for impaired driving.
Three witnesses testified at trial that the driver of the BMW M3 was “showing off” by speeding. An expert witness for the crown also testified that Sheikh was travelling at least 112 km/hr.
The posted speed limit along Mavis Road was 70 km/hr.
In her ruling, Woollcombe said she accepted the position from one expert that Sheikh’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) could have been as low as 81 mg per 100 ml of blood and because there’s a possibility that the results obtained have a plus or minus of 3 mg/100 ml, it could make his BAC as low as 78 mg/100 ml. Sheikh was then acquitted on two charges: over 80 cause death and over 80 cause bodily harm.
Pasqual testified that the last thing he remembered was stopping at the intersection to make sure no cars were coming and it was clear to turn.
Days later, he woke up in Sunnybrook Hospital with his wife by his side.
“My wife told me that I’ve been there for four days already,” said Pasqual who spent three months in a wheelchair, has undergone two surgeries and still experiences pain.
He said he still walks with a cane and has never been able to work since. When he found out Gamut had died in the crash, Pasqual told the court: “I cried because he’s very close to me. He’s more than a friend to me. We’ve been together for 22 years. I cry almost every day.”
Justice Woollcombe called the photographs shown at the trial “chilling” and said she was satisfied Sheikh’s impairment was a contributing cause to the collision along with his speed prior to the crash.
Woollcombe said Sheikh “sought to race with others, and was travelling in excess of 40 km/hr over the speed limit. I find his manner of driving and excessive speed created a real risk of damage to others on the road, it was objectively dangerous.”
She noted that Sheikh tried to engage others in racing and his driving was described as “pedal to the metal.”
Woollcombe added that cumulatively “he had chosen to consume both MDMA and alcohol. He had consumed a significant amount of alcohol, it was close to the legal limit,” which showed a wanton and reckless disregard for the lives of others.
Sheikh who has been out on bail since shortly after the crash will be back in court for a sentencing hearing in May at which time victim impact statements are expected to be read out and filed.
Before excusing the parties, Woollcombe said, “This is an important case. I anticipate the crown will be asking for a consideration period of incarceration.”